Hagins had a passion for swimming

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By Chris Sardelli

A woman who taught Lancaster County residents to swim for more than a generation and who was also active in Girl Scouting, on the local Red Cross board and served as a school board member for 12 years died Tuesday.

Known for her love of the water, Barbara “Bobbie” Mealing Hagins, 73, taught many Lancaster County residents in beginner, intermediate and advanced swimming classes, as well as lifesaving classes and instructor training.

She was active in the community in many other ways, serving as a troop leader in the Girl Scouts and as circle leader at First United Methodist Church. She also served three terms on the local school board.

Hagins was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She served as regent of the Waxhaw chapter for 12 years.

Anne Small knew Hagins since 1973, when she first took Hagins’ lifeguarding class. She and a friend took the class together.

Small never forget the training she learned.

“I can still remember Mrs. Hagins standing on (my friend’s) shoulders at the bottom of the pool. That’s how tough that lady was, but when you finished her class you were certified,” Small said. “I remember standing on the deck, looking down, and thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m going to be next.’”

Small, who is now aquatics director at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster, attributes her passion for swimming to Hagins.

“She was an absolutely wonderful lady,” Small said. “She was a mother to me and she made me who I am today. I’ve embodied her spirit. Her love for the water is what she has rooted in me and what I spread to the children of the county.”

At Thursday’s meeting of the local American Red Cross board, the talk often drifted to memories of Hagins, said board member Kathy Sistare.

Hagins was a volunteer for the Red Cross and served on the board of directors for more than 20 years.

Sistare, who was also recently elected to Lancaster County Council, worked with Hagins on the board for more than six years.

“She was a dedicated member of the American Red Cross, and her face was associated with the Red Cross here,” Sistare said. “She made sure the Red Cross was a known organization in this town.”

Sistare remembers Hagins instructing her in the proper way to conduct board meetings, but said she also had a less serious side as well.

“She had the neatest sense of humor, a dry sense of humor. She was her own person and she didn’t back down,” she said. “She was an absolute delight.”

She said Hagins will  be remembered here for a long time.

“I dare say if you asked half the people in Lancaster County, she touched their lives in some way,” Sistare said.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416