Bay swim is woman's 80th birthday gift to herself

For 28 years, Connie Modnick vowed that she would one day swim across the Newport Bay channel outside her condominium complex on the Lido Peninsula.

Friday turned out to be that day. But Pat Cone said her 79-year-old neighbor was nervous.

Word had gotten out about Modnick's plan to swim the bay this week. Neighbors on the elevator chatted about Modnick and her self-imposed deadline of completing the challenge before her 80th birthday next month.

"All the ones that live in that building are a little crazy," quipped Joye Mack, a longtime resident at the complex.

Mack and about a dozen other neighbors went down to the dock behind their homes on Friday afternoon to cheer on Modnick, nicknamed "Jinkie."

They chanted "Go, Connie, go" as she walked down the dock in a knee-length wetsuit, hanging onto a purple swim noodle.

They hollered when she sat on the edge of the wood slats and inched into the calm water about 2 feet below.

Then she was off — slowly — trailed by friends and an instructor from the YMCA where she has been swimming for 12 years.

She kicked her way about 50 yards across the channel and touched a dock on the opposite side — drawing more cheers — before starting back.

At the end of the swim, Modnick's building manager, Skip Smith, and a fellow swimmer, Jack Ollestad, hoisted her out of the water and onto the dock, where she promptly blew kisses to her admirers.

"I'm a little tired," she said, breathing heavily as she plopped down next to a dozen roses from her husband, Ziggy.

She jumped back onto her feet within seconds and pushed soaked curls of short hair out of her face — ready to serve the lunch she had prepared for her fans.

"We're going to have something to eat now, so don't anyone go away," she said.

"I'm glad that's done," she added as she toweled off.

It's one less item on her bucket list. She still has about five adventures she hopes to complete.

The next, she said, is to jump out of an airplane.

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