Graceville man skates by in life

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MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla (WJHG) - Many people skate by in life, and Robert Strong is no different. The 65 year-old former letter carrier hails from Graceville, which is fitting when you see him glide across the ice.

Strong grew up in Massachusetts and laced up the skates for the first time when he was just three years-old.

"Back then the winters stayed cold," said Strong. "They got out there with a fire hose and made us an outdoor ice skating rink."

From November until January, Strong finds sanctuary at The Villages of Baytowne Wharf ice rink in Sandestin.

"Some people paint as a means of expressing. Some people dance. Some people sing and I can't do much of any of that, so this is my artistic outlet," said Strong.

Strong joined the Ice Capades out of high school when he was only 17 years-old. He skated at the Ft. Lauderdale Sheraton's ice show for 14 years. That's when he received a surprise phone call.

"You never know who's in the audience, and some Secret Service person had seen me skate at the Sheraton," said Strong. "I thought it was a crank call, but it turned out to be real, and hey, an invite like that you don't say no."

Strong was invited to the White House along with world renown figure skater Peggy Fleming to skate for President Carter.

"Peggy and I were the only two skaters to skate for a president at the White House," said Strong. "I'm sure presidents have gone to ice shows, but not right there at the White House so that was quite a dream."

Many skaters shy away from smaller rinks for safety reasons, but the Sheraton's 20 x 30 foot slab gave Strong a leg up for the White House gig.

"Because the other skaters were fraidy cats I got the job," said Strong.

And while his skates were making an impression on the White House ice, the president left an impression on him.

"He is just the friendliest, down-to-earth guy, and his wife Roslyn… wonderful, wonderful people," said Strong.

Frost moved to Florida in 1983. When he's not skating at the Baytowne Wharf ice rink, he drives to Montgomery and skates on a larger rink there.