Dozens of friends and family members descended upon the Valencia Hills Clubhouse to celebrate the 100th birthday of former professional ice skater and television star Joanne McCusker on Sunday.
“I feel really good,” McCusker said of hitting the milestone. “It’s amazing.”
About 70 guests from across the country came to Valencia to celebrate the occasion.
“Her sister, her younger sister from Minnesota came to visit with my daughter,” said McCusker’s daughter Deborah Pecel. “And cousins from San Diego, cousins from Northern California all came. And all of her friends and neighbors, all of her children, all of her grandchildren, and all of her great grandchildren.”
In her youth, McCusker and her husband Buff were professional ice skaters, a passion that led to them joining the “Ice Follies,” a touring ice skating show. Following that, the pair got another major break in the entertainment industry by joining “Frosty Frolics,” an ice skating-centric variety show that ran exclusively on KTLA from 1951 to 1956. The couple’s love for skating and performing rubbed off on other members of their family, including their daughter, Lani McCusker.
“My mom and dad were ice skaters in California and all over the United States traveling with ‘Ice Follies,’” Lani said, “and I followed in their footsteps and ended up ice skating in ‘Ice Capades.’”
Joanne’s grandson, Ivan Pecel, was also inspired to take to the stage, albeit not as an ice skater, but as a comedian who has toured the country.
“She has always been the most upbeat, good-hearted, good-mood person I think that I’ve ever met in my life,” Ivan said, “and there was no doubt in my mind that she was gonna live to be 100. I mean, short of some freak accident, we’ll be back here at 110 with her. She’s in better shape than some of the girls that I went to high school with!”
Like Ivan, many of the other party guests had nothing but kind words to say about Joanne, gushing about her resilience, humor and compassion for others.
“She still lives alone, independent,” Joanne said. “Doesn’t drive anymore, but yes, still does everything for herself. She’s got four children, and I’m the only one that lives in Santa Clarita near her, but everybody visits regularly.”
“Energetic, enthusiastic, just incredible,” Lani said. “She’s healthy and has her mind and she’s just a wonderful, giving, Christian woman.”
More than being a good friend or family member, some of those close to Joanne see her as an inspiration, seeing her loving and outgoing personality as something to strive for themselves.
“She’s our hero,” said Joanne’s neighbor Tracey Burns, who’s known her since 2010. “We always think we have to be Joanne. Every time we feel down or lazy, we say, ‘We have to be Joanne! Be Joanne!’ And she’s never forgotten our birthdays, and she’s always there with a positive message, and she’s a wonderful lady.”
As for Joanne herself, she’s grateful both for her long life and for the connections that she’s made along the way.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said, “and I’ve made so many nice friends as you see, so I must have done something good when I was little. I don’t know what it was.”