LAKE PLACID - It's been quite a year for Joan and Jack Devitt.
Earlier this year, their daughter Ruthie was recognized for her gold medal test in figures and placed in the Skating Club of Lake Placid Gold Medal Hall of Fame. During the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, the newly dedicated Joan and Jack Devitt Trophy was awarded to the novice ice dance champions. These honors were closely followed by their induction into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame.
On Saturday, Sept. 15, supporters of the Lake Placid Hall of Fame inductees flocked to the 29th annual induction dinner, held at the Comfort Inn in Lake Placid. This year's inductees were the Devitts, Shirley Hosler, Roy R. Kennedy Sr., James E. Shea Sr. and Charles C. Walker. Emceed by former Adirondack Daily Enterprise publisher, local historian and community leader Howard Riley, the evening was filled with heartfelt tributes from the presenters and speeches from the inductees.
Photo by Christie Sausa
Joan and Jack Devitt pose for a picture next to their Lake Placid Hall of Fame plaque during an induction dinner Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Comfort Inn.
To be selected as a Lake Placid Hall of Fame member, one must have made significant contributions to the sports, civic or cultural landscape of Lake Placid and the surrounding communities, as well as enrich the quality of life in the region. Joan and Jack Devitt have more than accomplished these goals.
Joan and Jack Devitt first came to Lake Placid in 1949 to train in figure skating. Like many others, they were taken with the town and decided that one day they would move here.
In the meantime, they got married in 1956 and taught skating in the Philadelphia area. When they received an offer to coach for the Skating Club of Lake Placid in 1969, they jumped at the opportunity. With their children in tow, they moved to Lake Placid and started teaching generations of local and visiting pupils how to skate.
Their results speak for themselves. Several of their students competed in the national championships, including local pairs team Leanne and Jeff Labrake. Kathleen Kelly Cutone, now a high-ranking figure skating official, also competed in the national championships several times as a pupil of the Devitts.
Countless other students competed in regional and sectional competition, and earned their gold tests in figures, freestyle and pairs skating, and pre-gold tests in ice dance. Several of their pupils also became coaches, figure skating officials and performed in shows like the Ice Capades, Ice Follies and Holiday on Ice.
The Devitts were involved not just in the instruction of their students, but administration and organization of the local skating club as well. They produced 14 Skating Club of Lake Placid shows and several special event shows, where they were involved in all facets of the production.
The Devitts choreographed programs, built scenery and props, and wrote scripts and press releases for these shows and ensured they were entertaining and professional. Perhaps the most lucrative show they produced was the skating portion of the opening ceremonies for the first ever 1979 "Skate America" in Lake Placid.
Community service is a requirement for the Hall of Fame, and the Devitts have certainly volunteered their time in many ways to help uphold the sporting legacy of Lake Placid and assist people through their involvement in figure skating. In 1979, the Devitts helped found the SCLP Second Hand Shop, which was established to serve as a scholarship fundraiser for the Skating Club. The Skating Club of Lake Placid operated it for approximately 30 years.
Other than the Second Hand Shop, the Devitts also spent many hours volunteering to ensure the success of skating events. Most recently, they volunteered at the 2012 ISU Junior Grand Prix event in Lake Placid from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2. They also donated many hours of coaching time to the Skating Club of Lake Placid.
The Devitts stay very involved in the skating scene. Jack Devitt has several local pupils of all ages and still coaches a few hours a week. In the summer, he coaches group lessons for kids and adults, and teaches private lessons to skaters from around the world.
Joan Devitt still skates occasionally with the adult skaters on the SCLP Coffee Club sessions. Both can be seen around the rink coaching, chatting with skaters or sharpening skates.
In addition to skating, Jack Devitt is also a talented jeweler, with a design studio called "Devitt Studios" that is based out of his home and workshop in Jay. The studio is the only one that designs custom pieces of gold and silver figure skating jewelry, and they are sold at select shops throughout the country. Locally, the jewelry is displayed and sold exclusively at Lake Placid Skate Shop.
Barbara Tyrell Kelly, a local adult skater and historian of the Skating Club of Lake Placid, presented their award. She was the first to nominate the Devitts for the Hall of Fame several years ago and has known them for many years.
Kelly's speech included two amusing anecdotes about the Devitts and their students. She said that "to be inducted into the Hall of Fame means you have left your mark on the community."
Kelly also requested that anyone who has been "touched in some way by Joan and Jack Devitt to raise their hands."
Almost every hand in the banquet hall went up, a testament to the immense impact the Devitts have had in the local community. As grateful as Lake Placid is for the Devitts, they are equally as grateful to the region that has supported them all these years.
"We were so proud to be inducted into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame," Jack Devitt said. "The people were wonderful, and we were so happy to see so many friends, many of whom we haven't seen in a while, come to celebrate this event with us."
At the induction ceremony, friends and family surrounded the Devitts as they received their commemorative Hall of Fame plaque. They were very pleased with the ceremony and banquet. Many photographs were taken, including a "skaters" group photo with the Devitts and their generations of skating students, and of the Devitt family members. It was an evening to remember for everyone.
"I think we both agree that it was a very nice affair," said Joan Devitt, regarding the banquet and ceremony. "Everyone seemed to enjoy the event and have a very nice time, so what more could we ask for?"