A Champion Of Two Countries: The Edith Secord Story

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine, World Figure Skating Museum and Hall Of Fame.

Born September 4, 1896 in Brockville, Ontario, Edith Carol Finley had a rather transient childhood. Her father William Burton Finley, a respected photographer, travelled regularly with his work, carting around Edith, her mother Leona, sister Loretta, brother Emerson and Leona's three children from her first marriage with him most everywhere he went. By the time Edith was fifteen, she'd lived in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the state of Washington. It was while living in the Canadian Prairies that Edith first learned to skate, taking lessons from famed professional skater Norval Baptie.

On Canada Day in Saskatoon in the year 1916, she married Daniel Frederick Secord, a direct descendant of Amboise Sicard, Sr. - one of the earliest French Huguenot settlers of New Rochelle in the seventeenth century. The young Canadian couple settled in Manhattan. Daniel worked as an executive for Rex Cole Electric supplies; Edith joined the prestigious Skating Club of New York. Quickly earning a reputation as one of the club's most talented female members, she made her rounds on the skating carnival circuit, performing a similar pairs act with Betty Westgate where the two women dressed as Spanish Grandees.

As her father resided in Ottawa, Edith also held a membership with the Minto Skating Club. In 1922, she finished third in the Canadian pairs competition with Douglas H. Nelles. In 1925, she won the Canadian fours title with C.R. Morphy, Marion MacDougall and H.R.T. Gill and the Minto Skating Club's Malynski Cup for women's skating. At the 1929 Canadian Championships, she won an informal Waltzing competition with Stewart Reburn.

Though she certainly had success competing at the Canadian Championships, Edith's greatest achievements and disappointments came when she decided to start representing America. From 1929 to 1931, she was runner-up in the senior women's competition at the U.S. Championships to Maribel Vinson. In 1929, she won the first ever U.S. dance title, skating with USFSA President Joseph Savage. Edith and Joseph also finished third in U.S. senior pairs that year and next. Edith would go on to win the U.S. Waltzing title three times, twice with Savage and once with Ferrier T. Martin. In 1931, she won the bronze medal in the women's competition at the North American Championships in Ottawa behind Constance Wilson and Elizabeth Fisher. At the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society's carnival in 1936, Edith joined forces with Nettie Prantell to win the Fourteenstep competition. It was one of very few instances of a similar pair winning an ice dance contest against non-similar pairs in those days. These, just a sampling of Edith's many successes during the late twenties and early thirties, spoke to her versatility and skill as a skater. Though she achieved great things competing for the U.S., the decision ultimately harmed her. In both 1928 and 1932, she earned the U.S. Olympic alternate position in women's singles but was excluded because of her Canadian citizenship. In her only appearance at the World Championships in 1930, Edith finished dead last in the pairs event with Savage.

Retiring from competitive skating in the mid thirties, Edith moved to a frame house on a hilltop on Osceola Avenue in Irvington, New York with her husband. Two of her dearest friends were Olympic Gold Medallists Andrée and Pierre Brunet. Though she never had any children of her own, she was regarded as one of the few USFSA national level dance judges of her era who really took a special interest in young people. She also was a regular on many Ardsley Park ponds, helping any young skater who showed an aptitude for skating. Skilled in the art of flower arranging, she gave exhibitions of dried and pressed flowers, ferns and grasses at several local public libraries. Also an avid horticulturist and gardener, she often took young children on nature walks through her woods, identifying the trees, flowers and mushrooms they'd see on their journeys.

In a January 9, 1939 interview with Herbert Allan for the "New York Post", Edith remarked, "A skater has to be almost at the top by the time he or she is sixteen to hope reach championship class. The youngsters are coming along so fast nowadays that competitors are considered old-timers at the age of twenty-five, when most other athletes are reaching their peak. I suppose that's because modern figure skating puts such a big premium on nimbleness and grace, which are the prerogatives of youth. It doesn't call for so much strength as other forms of athletics, although sturdy, muscular legs are necessary to achieve success in national competition... The skating cycle we are going through today stresses rhythm more than ever, and that's where youngsters are at their best. When sustained spirals, jumps and lifts were the thing, the smooth flow of movement wasn't so important, but now it's almost everything."

Edith Secord and Joseph Savage

Shortly before her husband's death in 1957, Edith sold her house and a small cottage on their property and moved down to a little grey house near the road. Widowed, Edith lived in this house alone until her death on December 23, 1964 in Tarrytown, New York. Her obituary from the December 29, 1964 issue of the "Daily News" of Tarrytown recalled, "As long as her health permitted she continued to skate for private pleasure. On a still wintery morning walking along Osceola Ave., it was lovely to catch a lilting tune from a record player, and come upon the tall figure, skating marvellously to soft music on the Havemeyer pond, alone in her special world."

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