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Published: Sunday, 6/22/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

Marilyn A. Hankins; 1932-2014: Y lifeguard, instructor learned to swim at 37

Hankins Hankins

Marilyn A. Hankins, a lifeguard and water aerobics and swim instructor in Ottawa Hills and at the West Toledo YMCA, died Wednesday of ovarian cancer. She was 82.

Mrs. Hankins was born in Newark and did not herself learn how to swim until she and her husband moved to Toledo in 1969 when she was 37.

“We would all be out in the water and maybe Mom would get her toes wet, but she was petrified,” Mrs. Hankins’ daughter, Annette Smith, recalled. But once the family moved to Toledo she confronted her fear.

“She decided that she didn’t want to be left out any more,” Mrs. Smith said.

Mrs. Hankins quickly learned to love the water and began a 34-year career teaching swim lessons, water aerobics, and aquanastics exercise classes to people of all ages.

Citing her own example, she told students nobody is too old to learn.

“She was always encouraging other adults who didn’t know how to swim to do it,” Mrs. Smith said.

Mrs. Hankins always made sure to keep her classes lively.

“She liked to dance, and in the water aquanastics class she liked to incorporate some dance into it,” Mrs. Smith said.

Mrs. Smith said her mother’s classes were very close, often getting together to socialize outside lessons. For Mrs. Hankins, her teaching was a way to be involved in the community.

“Both she and my dad were not just going to sit back and relax during their retirement years,” Mrs. Smith said. “They wanted to give back to the community.”

Her Catholic faith was also important to Mrs. Hankins, and Mrs. Smith recalled childhood memories of the family gathering around to recite the Rosary together and go to church.

“She was always caring, extending her hospitality to other people,” Mrs. Smith said, explaining her mother’‍s commitment to her family and her husband, Paul Hankins, whom she married June 1, 1952.

When Mr. Hankins, a 43-year Navy Reserve veteran, died on Memorial Day this year, a wheelchair-using Mrs. Hankins gathered the strength to stand and salute him at the funeral.

She was born Jan. 21, 1932, to Fortunata and Julius Dobos and attended Batton High School in Elizabeth, N.J.

Surviving are five daughters, Kathleen Hankins, Annette Smith, Teresa Johnson, Laura Sharp, and Eileen Decker; brothers, Albert and Ronald Dobos, 11 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Walker Funeral Home, where a Rosary will be recited at 4 p.m. The funeral Mass is at 10 a.m. Monday in Gesu Roman Catholic Church.

The family suggests tributes to the church, the West Toledo YMCA, Our Lady of Toledo Shrine, St. Ursula Academy, or the Ability Center of Greater

Contact Stephen Gruber-Miller at: smiller@theblade.com, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @sgrubermiller.

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