Ice and spice never felt so nice to a retired General Electric employee, who found a new love in her 60s.

Although she’s from Grove City, Marilyn Pagni knows she doesn’t have to spend the winter up north to enjoy ice-skating.

She and her husband, Neil, are now enjoying balmy weather and sunshine in Ellenton, Fla. Since 1997, they split between Grove City and Ellenton based on the season, but began living in Florida permanently last year.

“It’s pretty easy to get used to having the sunshine every day,” Pagni said.

She spends much of her free time indoors at the local rink, practicing with the 12-member Tropical Spice on Ice, while her husband finds his favorite activity outdoors.

“Neil enjoys golfing and I enjoy skating. We’re happy,” she said.

Pagni, 67, is also a serious performer with Tropical Spice, a synchronized skating group that ranges in age from 45 to 71.

She surmises that younger people don’t join the adults-only team because it’s a commitment too big for parents and working people.

The team is active with practices, shows and local and national competitions. They went to the International Skating Institute’s World Championships in Marlboro, Mass. this fall.

“ISI competitions are different from competitions for people who go to the Olympics. It’s a fun one,” Pagni said.

For their first time at the World’s, Tropical Spice took first place in the coveted Percentage Award, which is based on percentage points.

Basically, points are accumulated for individual routines, which are tallied for each team. The team with the highest percentage points wins the award.

Since Tropical Spice is small compared to teams with 30 or 40 members, Pagni said they would have to get high marks for nearly all of their performances to place first — and they did.

“Most of the team had first-place finishes, which is why we managed to get those percentage points,” Pagni said. “We won that over 121 teams. We were very surprised. It was just a very exciting moment for us.”

Skating wasn’t very thrilling for her at first. She began five years ago when yoga-class members encouraged her. The Ellenton rink also has a fitness center.

“At first with the girls, I was on rental skates. I immediately fell on my butt,” Pagni said.

“We were concerned about her age, that she might break something,” added Reni Pagni, her husband’s brother from Grove City.

He and his wife have a winter home in Ellenton, which is the size of Harrisville.

Pagni was about to give up skating before she decided to commit to taking lessons with Tropical Spice coach Kellie Paige, and being fitted for skates especially for her.

Two years ago, she became a team member.

“I never dreamed I could be on the team, because I’d watch what they do and say, ‘no way,’” Pagni said. Over time, she became better at the routines, which mainly involve specific, symmetrical patterns on ice.

She’s gone from falling to winning. During the three-day Worlds, she did five individual routines, and placed first in both the technical and artistic events.

Pagni has always been active, but “I would have never dreamed in my life I’d be doing something like this,” she added. “It’s no easy thing to learn. There are new challenges all the time.”

She still takes yoga and works out at the gym in addition to her skating.

“I’m in better shape than I used to be, at least as good as my 40s and 50s, probably better because I was working then,” she said.

She did receptionist and secretary work for General Electric for 20 years.

All of the Tropical Spice members find great fulfillment in their accomplishments.

“Everybody who’s doing it is passionate about it and loves it,” Pagni said. “Occasionally, a person has to drop out for age-related health reasons, then someone else comes in. It all balances out.”

All of their shows are dedicated to breast cancer awareness, since five members have had the disease over the past 10 years.

“One died, two are in treatment now. One hasn’t been back and another girl is going through treatments while she’s skating,” Pagni said.

Tropical Spice keeps team members — mainly women — hot.

“It keeps you young, really,” she said. “I think you have to stay active in your life. You can’t just sit down and get old.”

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