Showing Off

Dan Field
Lake Sun Leader

Age is only a number. We’ve heard that axiom before, maybe even said it ourselves as we reach another birthday milestone.

But Larry and Nanette Erickson and Charlotte Morrow, all of whom live on The North Shore of the Lake of the Ozarks, know it’s true. They are spry, lively septuagenarians who are avid water skiers when time, weather conditions and Lake conditions permit.

Larry and Nanette, who live in Jackson Branch Cove at about the 3-mile marker, cast hopeful glances to the sky on a recent overcast, sometimes-rainy day. Their hope was by early the next morning conditions would be right to uncover their 2000 Malibu Sunsetter, don their wetsuits and take to the water.

They are daily skiers, almost always in the early morning while the Lake surface is calm — and never on weekends. Locals, especially water skiers, know that in-season weekends are pretty much reserved for our visitors and residents whose boats can handle the large and sometimes dangerous waves.

As the water warms toward early June, Larry and Nanette shed their wetsuits, which help deter the cold early spring water, and enjoy their sport even more. That’s the biggest challenge they say in water skiing at 71 and 70 respectively – getting up out of the water with a wetsuit full of water. They’re both slim and in shape by any measure, certainly unique for people their age.

If the Lake is especially calm, Larry and Nanette will take turns skiing to the dam, roughly three miles away.

Age isn’t a deterrent, they say, but they admit they’re sore the first couple of days after they start in the spring.

Nanette’s dad sold a business in St. Louis in the 1950s and relocated his family to the Lake where they bought 160 acres in 1959 and built Rainey’s North Shore Resort. Nanette has been skiing ever since and taught many a guest the thrill of water skiing.

The Ericksons met as teenagers at Bethany Lutheran Church in Eldon. Larry, (a graduate of Eldon High School), and Nanette (a graduate of School of the Osage) both completed college at University of Missouri – Rolla.  They then moved to the Kansas City area for job opportunities but continued their water skiing hobby with a couple of tournament water skiing clubs while they were in their 20s and 30s. They performed in jump, trick and slalom competition on Lake Olathe, and on what Larry describes as large ponds. The members of the tournament clubs would put on ski shows for various chambers, holiday events or grand openings in surrounding states to earn money to compete in tournaments. It wasn’t unusual for them to sleep in their van to save money.

In April 1975, Nanette had her first child. Two months later she competed in a tournament – no trophy for jump that time.

“We were never good enough to go on to national tournaments,” Larry recalled. “But we still had fun.”

At the ripe old age of 32, Nanette won the “senior” women’s jump competition at Raintree Lake near Lees Summit. Today, she laughs, the senior division is for women in their 50s and 60s.

One caveat Larry offers, recalling a humorous moment in their competitive years, is the importance of wearing glasses (or contacts) when approaching a ramp for a jump if you have poor eyesight. Nanette didn’t, and belly-flopped on the ramp and into the water. Lesson learned.

The Ericksons’ children learned to water ski at an early age as well. In fact, their five-year-old son, Jason, was photographed by Lake-area photographer George Denny and then featured in The Lake of the Ozarks Vacation Guide. Denny, himself once a competitive slalom and barefoot skier, took photos of the Ericksons for this feature.

And even today, it’s a family affair as the Erickson’s children (Jason and Shelley) and now grandchildren (Nathan, Sierra, Lyla and Dylan) come to the Lake in June for a family get-together of skiing, reminiscing and celebrating their family.

Oh. What do Larry and Nanette do in the winter months? Well, of course, they go snow skiing in Colorado several times.

So, yes, age is a merely a number for the Ericksons. Another number they point to proudly is the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary this past June.

A well-deserved “congratulations” on all fronts.

Skiing for fun

Many athletes dream of winning some type of championship. Charlotte Morrow took that to the ultimate level at the age of 12, winning the junior girls’ national water skiing championship in Austin, Texas.

Now a resident of The North Shore near the 1-mile marker, Charlotte, at 71, still water skis a handful of times a year. She started skiing at the age of six under the guidance of her dad, Charles Bruner of Lake Ozark, and has a portfolio of articles, photos and brochures touting her accomplishments. She and others from the Lake of the Ozarks were part of water ski shows and tournaments when the Lake was less crowded.

Summers were busy for the young ski team. They competed In Omaha, Neb., Corpus Christi, Texas, and finally Austin.

Charlotte was her dad’s first student, and over the years he taught dozens of youngsters to water ski. By the time she was seven, Charlotte was skiing backward on one ski. During her first year of professional skiing, she was invited by the Lake Tapawingo Ski Club to appear before an audience of more than 5,000 at the Prairie Lee Lake Ski Pageant near Kansas City.

After winning the national championship, she retired from tournament competition. She went on to graduate from the School of the Osage in 1966 and then entered college at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield (now Missouri State University).

She just couldn’t give up the sport that had given her so much enjoyment – and trophies – and in 1968 she was accepted into the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Show in Winter Haven, Fla., based solely on her accomplishments. After two years of skiing for the show, she came home. Charlotte was a physical fitness buff and joined the Lodge of Four Seasons as an exercise instructor when it first opened its spa. About that time she met another young physical fitness buff and graduated chiropractor who was manager of the spa – her now-husband Harold Morrow. He hired Charlotte and they married in 1971 at the Lake. He now owns Morrow Chiropractic in Lake Ozark with his son, Marshal, and Charlotte who is on duty as needed.

Charlotte, like so many young skiers at the time, was part of water ski shows at the Lake. She skied in the Ozark Water Ski Pageant and later the Fort Osage Water Ski Show.

“I basically ski for fun now,” Charlotte said. “I go early in the day when it’s calmer, but I still slalom. I get up pretty easily but I don’t have the stamina I used to.”

Still today, she could ski from the 1.5-mile marker near her home to about the 6-mile marker and back.

Her daughter, Heather – also a water skier — quickly pointed out that her mom is still a pretty good “cutter” on the slalom.

Charlotte and Harold own a 1996 Ski Nautique, bought from a world wake board champion from Lake St. Louis. It sits in their two-well dock next to their tritoon, a casual respite from the constant tug of water skiing.

It’s been a good run for Charlotte and what evolved from a hobby to a profession. Not only has she collected multiple trophies over the years, her skiing prowess has been captured by numerous photographers and her photos adorn several pamphlets, brochures and magazines.

Pictured at left with Charlotte is her little sister Debbie Bruner (now Vance), who today lives in Burnsville, N.C. Charlotte is on the right. Debbie was only 3½ years old when she was taught by their dad.