When the last of her four children left home 13 years ago, Barbara Moseley felt like dancing. She still does. “Everybody needs an outlet,” she explains. “Dancing is a combination of exercise and fun.” Mrs. Moseley isn’t just whistling Dixie. Since 1964 she has won more than 125 terpsichorean trophies. Last September, before a cheering crowd at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, she swept the Latin-American pro-am division of the U.S. Ballroom championship, becoming the first woman ever to win gold medals in all four categories—rumba, samba, cha-cha and pasa doble. Oh, yes, one other thing. Barbara Moseley is 71 years old. “I still can’t believe it,” marvels Jack Raymond, her 33-year-old partner-instructor. “The whole contest was geared to younger women, but she was just fantastic.”
A munchkin-size free spirit born in Portland, Maine, the 4’10”, 84-lb. grandmother of 10 has never been one to follow the herd. She married her husband, Eugene, a West Point graduate, in a traditional crossed-swords ceremony in 1929, but refused to become a bridge-playing military wife. “Eugene told me that’s where trouble always started,” she recalls, “and I didn’t like bridge anyway. So I stayed home and cooked and sewed.” For fun, the couple tooled around on his-and-hers motorcycles. Widowed in 1944 when Lieutenant Colonel Moseley was killed In the battle for Monte Cassino, Barbara bought a house near Winter Park, Fla. To make ends meet, she began driving a school bus (and kept at it for 29 years), perched on a raised seat and pumping specially built-up brake and clutch pedals. (“She was strict but fair,” says one former passenger. “There was never any trouble on Mrs. Moseley’s bus.”)
Living in a rambling old home on Lake Sue, Mrs. Moseley taught herself and her children to water-ski. As her own kids grew up and moved out, a new generation of neighborhood youngsters began hanging around the Moseley house, skiing whenever they could, refueling on Barbara’s chocolate-chip cookies and banging her ear with their problems. “She stressed responsibility and doing things right,” says neighbor Bob Reich. “She was all for us having a good time, and she’d help us whenever she could, just as long as our work was done.” A number of the kids went on to Rollins College in Winter Park and became stars of the water ski team. Competition at Rollins attracted the best water-skiers from all over the world and Barbara Moseley was their hostess year after year.
These days Barbara is up before dawn, zipping around town in a racy MG sports car, working out almost every day at a nearby dance studio. “If I didn’t, ” she says, “I wouldn’t feel as good as I do.” In one respect, unhappily, Mrs. Moseley’s age has become an obstacle. She has never placed anything but first in the strenuous theater arts dance—a combination of adagio lifts, turns and splits—in competitions from Puerto Rico to California. This fall she discovered that this year’s national theater arts championship was closed, for the first time, to anyone over 65. Though the age limit was ostensibly set to prevent injury, dance instructor John Ford believes it was meant to keep Barbara out. “There’s no question in my mind that she could have won,” he says. Though bitterly disappointed, Mrs. Moseley is already looking forward to defending her Latin-American title. “Now I have to hang on to it,” she says. “The people I defeated had won this competition for a number of years, and they were a little upset, you know.”