A pair is a pair is a pair. And they are a pair. In synchronized
swimming, it's a duet; in diving, it's synchronized diving; in water polo,
they are the forward and goalie; and, in swimming, they tie for the gold
medal. As the International Swimming Hall of Fame Grand Dames, they are
inseparable in service, volunteerism, grace and commitment for which the Hall
of Fame and the Hall of Fame Dames stand. Jean Brattain and Connie
Sessions both emulate the posture of Grande Dame.
Connie had her beginning in San Francisco. She and sister Vicki started
swimming at the famed Fleishhacker Pool. Connie was a self-taught
swimmer, but persistent. She was a Girl Scout who later hung around the
Crystal Plunge Pool with swimmer Ann Curtis and Coach Charlie Sava. Sava
said Connie was a beautiful swimmer but would never have any speed. Over
the next few years, she proved him right because she became a beautiful water
show acrobatic swimmer. By 1949 she was performing in the Larry Crosby
Water Show at Soldier Field in Chicago and then the next year traveled with
the Buster Crabbe Aquacades, a tour that began in New Haven, Connecticut and
stopped in selected cities west to Los Angeles. Her twin sister Vicki
also excelled winning the platform and springboard gold medals at the 1948
London Olympic Games. Connie ended up marrying a swimmer friend and
Vicki married her coach, Hall of Famer Lyle Draves. Connie moved to
Florida and raised a family. When her young daughter needed swimming
lessons for water safety sake, Connie did the teaching and then continued her
work in teaching water safety as an instructor for the American Red Cross
including teaching survival swimming to infants 15 months to preschool age.
Jean's years of volunteer service began in her home state of Ohio where she
was a leader in the Scouting movement in both the Brownies and Girl Scouts.
Her husband was in the retail lumber business and following World War II, the
family moved from place to place to meet the lumber demand. First in
Lebanon, Ohio, she helped to integrate an all black troop at a time in the
1940's when that was uncommon. She loved the out-of-doors and after
moving to Wellston, Ohio, she took charge of the local 4-H Club, taking the
kids on overnight camping trips. After her children had grown, she and her husband
of 59 years, Harold, moved to Hollywood, Florida (1981), where she became a
member of the Hall of Fame Dames. She also works as Alice Kempthorne's
assistant in keeping of the records for the Florida Gold Coast of USA
Jean and Connie can often be found on the pool deck during the College Coaches
Swim Forum each winter, on the Fort Lauderdale Beach during the Ocean Mile
Swim, serving meals at various ISHOF receptions and events and giving tours to
young school children and senior adults in the ISHOF Museum and Exhibit
building. They are often spotted in their blue and white Dames uniforms
meeting buses of youngsters or senior citizens. As museum guides, they
have found creative ways to appeal to each group's specific interests, whether
it be selecting age-appropriate films for the kids or providing medals and
trophies for blind children to feel and study. Over the years, both
Connie and Jean have served as President of the Dames as well as Vice President,
Secretary and Treasurer. Jean has served on the Library Advisory
Committee of the Henning Library helping to set policy and performing duties
of assistance in library function.
Connie is the mother of four daughters and four grandchildren. Jean is
mother to her son and daughter, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Both are family oriented individuals whose values of character,
thoughtfulness and helpfulness flow over in to their associations with
everyone connected to ISHOF.
They are both Grand Dames of inseparable quality.