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Eric's Heroes: Seattle's reigning queen of roller skating

Dona Ely is Seattle's reigning queen of roller skating. She's created a beautiful little family tradition at Broadview-Thomson Elementary School. (KOMO News)

When Liberace imagined what heaven must be like, he imagined Dona Ely's home.

It is a psychedelic, kaleidoscopic, technicolor dreamscape...bedazzled with doo dads and knick knacks. Birds and butterflies, and there is a Pepto Bismol drenched bathroom that would make a flamingo blush.

And pictures. There are pictures in the hallway of family and friends.

"They are pictures of regional and national competitions," Dona said.

But mostly roller skaters. Her children, her students and herself.

"My kids really do owe their life to skating because I would not have gone out with their father if he had not asked me to go skating," Dona said.

She was, and always will be, a roller skating queen.

Every Friday night, Dona packs up some things and ventures out to preach her free wheeling gospel.

She drives to Broadview-Thomson Elementary School. There is a room full of relics from another time, antiques really. And with her daughter Della's help, they pull out skates.

She takes them to the gymnasium and then dusts the floor, from one end to the other to make everything perfect.

Some children show up, and she begins to teach.

"Take little marching steps. Don't take big steps, little marching steps," Dona said.

The same way she's taught since 1971.

She teaches them how to take those first tentative steps, she gets down on the floor and teaches them how to fall.

Dona is 87-years-old. And while the lessons are finishing, families start to show up to Broadview-Thomson.

Moms, dads and kids get their skates on. This is called "Family Skate Night" and it's put on by Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Dona has been running it since 1985. She changes gears from teacher to roller skating D.J.

When we asked why she still uses cassettes, Dona said, 'We don't have a CD player."

We didn't bother asking about MP3s. And who cares? What happens on Friday nights here isn't about formats, it's about families.

There will come at time when the boys and girls will begin pulling away from their parents. When the idea of holding hands with them in front of their friends will be unthinkable. But for one boy, Richard, it's still okay for a little while longer anyway. And so he reaches back for his mom Christy's hand.

And that is the real gift of Family Skate Night. It's what Dona Ely has been giving families in these parts for many, many years: moments in time.

"I want to thank you all for skating with us. I hope you had a whole lot of fun and I hope you'll come back again next week to join us," Dona said.

To love something is one thing, to teach others to love it too, is quite another.

"Like I said, old skaters just roll away. I'll just roll away," Dona said.

To do it for 50 years...is heroic.

Editor's Note: "Eric's Heroes" is a weekly series airing every Wednesday on KOMO News in the 6 p.m. newscast. If you have a good story about a good person doing good things for the right reasons, share it with Eric by sending an email to heroes@komonews.com.


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