"I KICK AROUND anywhere there is skating," says Florence Sifferd, who retired from Uncle Sam nearly a decade and a half ago. "When you really love it and find out what a wonderful sport it is, you'll understand. It has tremendous interconnection and social carry-over."
Sifferd manages to skate "a couple of times a week," and figures she'd get in more ice time "if I didn't spend so much time on the typewriter." Since joining the Washington Figure Skating Club 36 years ago, she has served four seasons as president and is now editor of "The Blade," a newsletter that goes out to more than 200 club members.
Sifferd modestly says, "I'll always be a beginner. I skate straight forward and straight backward and I can swivel my head." But others are more complimentary.
"She can really move," says Audrey King Weisiger, 31, a skating instructor at Fairfax Ice Arena who, as a child, was judged by Sifferd. "She is a really good ice dancer."
Sifferd, who was reared in Iowa, didn't learn to skate until she was a graduate student at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. A roommate persuaded her to try it; she bought hockey skates for $2.87 a pair, she remembers; and she's been finding her fun on the ice for more than five decades since.
She's more spirited than many folks half her age -- she doesn't talk about exactly how old she is, but a good guess would be around 80 -- and she's constantly on the go. When she's not working with the skating club, Sifferd helps out at the National Audubon Society and tutors three pupils in English.
She no longer longer skates competitively as an ice dancer: "I've buried all my partners. Good men partners don't last," she says with wry humor. But she's keeping her options open. "I know of a guy in Washington State that is older than I," she says. "He's, I think, 82."
And she's still involved in judging. Since the '70s, Sifferd has been responsible for the club's testing of skaters. "It's a thankless thing to make these decisions," she says. "Our judges are not paid for their work. Presumably your expenses are covered."
But she still relishes the task because "ice skating is a good addiction. It's pretty exciting when you see what these kids can do. They're natural showoffs."
That sense of excitement is why Sifferd still speaks of ice skating as if it were a new-found love.
"The effortless glide is akin to flying," she says. "It's exciting. That's why so many flyers are attracted to it."