YMCA dedicates aquatics center to late board member

Nov. 21—WATERTOWN — With a substantial financial shortfall looming, Maxine Quigg convinced the other Watertown Family YMCA board members to continue to pursue the aquatics and community center that they all had envisioned.

On Tuesday night, KI LaClair remembered how her friend persuaded them not to scale back to a two-lane pool when there was not enough funding to move forward for a larger aquatics center.

About 75 people gathered on Tuesday night in the new aquatics center that features a state-of-the-art six-lane lap pool that now bears Quigg's name.

Friends, Y board members and community leaders honored her during the dedication in the 10,500-square-foot addition.

LaClair credited her friend for the way she talked board members not to give up on the project that was originally proposed.

"Maxine was not having it," she said.

She thought it was too important of a project for the Y, downtown and the entire community, LaClair recalled.

Her friend would be proud of the Community and Aquatics center that will open in a few short weeks, she said.

The Y will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 11 for the new $27.5 million facility in the former Woolworth store-turned-call-center at 146 Arsenal St.

It features a six-lane lap pool and adjacent recreational pool, multi-sport courts, an indoor track, a wellness center, classrooms and child watch facilities.

But the dedication was bittersweet.

In 2021, Quigg and her business partner Terence M. O'Brien were shot and killed by a former employee in her Clinton Street real estate office.

She was a successful real estate broker, community and business leader in Jefferson County.

Another friend, Mark Lavarnway, read a letter from Quigg's husband, Joseph. Her family members could not be there Tuesday night, but they were able to take a private tour of the new facility last week.

"This is truly a first-class facility and I'm sure you are so proud of this very ambitious project," Joseph wrote.

She'd be delighted to know that the facility bears her name, he wrote.

Perhaps no one has swam more laps in the small pool in the old downtown Y than YMCA board member John B. Johnson Jr.

Because of his dedication to the Y and to the community, Johnson's name will forever be attached to the new lap pool in the aquatics center.

To honor the man with such a legacy, Y officials named the new pool for Johnson, chairman of Johnson Newspaper Corp. and retired co-publisher of the Watertown Daily Times.

"No one has done more for our YMCA," said Denise K. Young, the Y's executive director.

When he was a boy, Johnson learned how to swim in the old downtown pool in what was then a 50-year-old pool, he remembered.

When he was stricken with polio four years later, it was back to the Y pool for therapeutic swimming. He began to regularly swim laps when he returned from college in 1968, he remembered.

"Thank you for this honor, and from today forward enjoy the pool and benefits it brings to our community," he said.

The Y also named the aquatic center's scoreboard for Lori J. Peters, a longtime swim coach for the Y's Blue Sharks program and the varsity girls swimming coach at Watertown High School.

Over her 30-year career, Peters has coached thousands of kids.

She's been able to nurture the talent of kids as young as 5 years old and taught so many of them to become champions, Johnson said.

She's guided the varsity girls swimming team to 138 consecutive team meet wins, 14 Frontier League titles and many of the girls have individual records at pools all over the area.

But she's taught them to work together and care and cheer for each other, Johnson said.

The role model has always dreamed big and then went out to achieve her goals, he said.