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LAKE NORMAN NEWS – Senior Sailor Returns to the Open Water

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Though Janet Dushane hasn’t been aboard a sailboat for more than five years, her enthusiasm for navigating wind-powered crafts on the open water has never waned. She’s loved sailing her entire life.

Brookdale Senior Living Center in Mooresville, her home for the past several years, encouraged her family to arrange a celebratory sail on Lake Norman later this month. Dushane, 78, will once again feel the wind at her back and the mist in the air.

She’ll be squired around the lake by Karen Dobbs of Lake Norman Women Sailors and by Dushane’s son, Coker Baldwin. Baldwin, 47, is making the trip from Colorado to be with his mom. The special day is provided courtesy of Wish of a Lifetime, a nonprofit dedicated to fulfilling senior citizens’ special wishes.

Dushane is battling declining health that includes loss of vision and dementia. One thing she hasn’t lost, however, is her joyful spirit and love of all things nautical, particularly sailing tales that help her relive a lifetime of memories on the water.

“We heard from the activities director at Brookdale how much mom talks about sailing and how she lights up when she recalls her experiences on the water,” said Dushane’s daughter Elizabeth Jutila, 54. “They told us they could perhaps arrange for an outing through Wish of a Lifetime if we were interested in pursuing it. The family was very excited about making this happen. We’re going to surprise her with the news a day or two before as we don’t want to overwhelm her.”

Reached in Colorado, Baldwin was equally enthusiastic about getting his mom onto a sailboat again.

“Janet has always been an avid sailor,” he said. “She’s traveled from New York into Canada on the Hudson River and St. Lawrence River locks system. It was with her second husband, Benson Dushane, when she began to sail more. Their sailing adventures lasted over 20 years, with Benson passing in 2011.”

Ports of call that Dushane has seen in her lifetime on the high seas have included the Greek isles, Belize, Tonga, Tahiti and the entire Caribbean.

“Janet and Benson traveled the locks system of Dijon, France, in a houseboat,” said Baldwin. “But it was sailing that was Janet’s true love. I will always remember how my mother couldn’t wait until the motor was turned off and the sails were raised. She would sigh with delight as peaceful calm descended upon the 42-foot sailboat. Then we would hear the sound of the water against the boat, the pull of the sails as they filled with air, and off we went.”

For Dobbs, the call to help fulfill this particular wish is extra special. “My business is all about women teaching women to sail,” said Dobbs. “So to be out on the water with a woman with so much sailing experience and her son, who she taught to sail, is marvelous.”

Dobbs said her 26-foot boat has seen seniors sailing before, citing the 103-year-old mother of a friend who once accompanied her out onto the lake.

“I’ll make sure things are very safe; and depending on the wind and the weather we’ll likely have an opportunity to get out beyond the bay into the main part of the lake, where she’ll be able to have some great views,” said Dobbs.

For Dushane and her family it’s all about rekindling the fire of so many years of sailing the world.

“I know she’s going to love it,” said Baldwin. “We’re all just thrilled to help make it happen.”

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