SYRACUSE – Don Bucher has been there, done that, in his lifelong love affair with water skiing. Recently, he was given an honor no other person had won before him.
Sitting in a lawn chair on the shores of cozy Cindonway Lake during judging at a ski competition this past holiday weekend, Bucher was as anonymous as the next person. Still doing ski trick scoring with a pencil and paper in his lap and a tape recorder in his hand, Bucher’s approach is as old school just as it was when he began to take water skiing serious in the 1960s. Shifting to the microphone for slalom, the makeshift ‘press box’ overlooking the tiny lake had Bucher’s famous personality come out. Teaching the sport, adding flavor to the performances of the up-and-coming skiers, and making everyone feel involved.
It’s all part of why Bucher is a Hall of Famer on so many levels.
Bucher was recognized in this year’s inaugural class for the Midwest Water Ski Hall of Fame. In the ceremony held in late July, Bucher was the first to be presented in the class for his work and accomplishment in water skiing, which has had him competing and serving the sport all over the country. His accomplishment list takes up more than a single-spaced page, but among those read off during the ceremony included winning the Rollie Williams Award for sportsmanship, a handful of board and chairman positions with American Water Skiing Association and USA Water Ski, as well as a spot in the Indiana Water Ski Hall of Fame and accolades from numerous other organizations.
Bucher, who is as outgoing as they come, was actually rather passive about adding the latest honor to his mantle.
“It’s a nice honor, and it shows the work I’ve done in the sport over the last 40 or 50 years,” said Bucher. “It’s a definite honor to go in as the first class. It’s a motivation. You do all you can for each other and for the sport. To be recognized for that is an honor in itself. To go in as the first group with some of these guys, it’s great.”
Bucher, who himself does both administrative work and actual skiing still to this day, recently placed first in his age division in all three events – tricks, slalom and jump – at the state meet. He later went on to place first in jumps, second in tricks and fifth in slalom, then first overall at the Midwest Regional competition. But Bucher found the most pride in placing third overall, third in jumps and fifth in slalom at the Nationals in Kansas this summer.
“The key is you just need to finish it at my age,” Bucher said with a laugh about competing in the 70-plus age group. “I’ve got a bad knee so I just ride over the jump. But skiing is a tremendous way to stay fit and stay active. I spend about 175-200 days a year skiing. I can go twice a day as long as I feel fine.”
Where Bucher shifted his focus was to the next generation of skiers that he has worked with and overseen become nationally recognized. His own sons, Shane and Brandon, have skied for years, Brandon himself an Indiana Hall of Famer. Don’s grandchildren are also on the water, three of which skied over the weekend on Cindonway, which Bucher created as an exclusive water skiing lake in 1981. Camelot Lake, just up the road in Milford which Jerry Hickman helped create as another water skiing venture, came shortly after.
Of those stationed on Camelot, the Mishler girls – Alexis and Julie – have become two of the best young skiers in the country. As of Tuesday, Sept. 4, Alexis is ranked No. 1 and Julie ranked No. 3 nationally in the Girls 2 category for AWSA. Alexis, an eighth grader at Wawasee Middle School, set personal bests in slalom and tricks at Cindonway last weekend and is among the world leaders for her age group. Julie, who is a sixth grader at Wawasee Middle School, is also among the nation’s elite, sitting top-10 in all three skills and fourth in overall. Julie was a 2017 national champion for Girls 1.
“This isn’t just about me, but what we have going in this area with the quality of water skiing,” Bucher said. “Both Mishler girls are among the best in the country and will only get better. My kids and grand kids all ski and are carrying on the Bucher name. There are so many others who have helped make northern Indiana a great skiing community. I’m just glad that I can represent it in a way that helps promote the sport.”