NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Winter is coming, which means it is time to lace up those ice skates.
If you stop by the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, you might get a glimpse of a man whose real job deals with people skating on thin ice.
Robert Sweet loves to learn new things, even at the age of 96.
“To survive to this point is a matter of great luck,” he told CBS2’s Steve Overmyer.
Early mornings at the rink, the edge of his skates cut into the ice as he continues his education.
“It forces you to learn,” he said.
Twice a week to stay fit, he’s coached by an Olympic ice dancer. Even at his advanced age, he’s still pushing himself to get better.
“Well, it’s like anything else… The more you do it, you get better at it, (and) it’s more enjoyable,” he said.
But when the skating is done, the blades are cleaned. Sweet changes into his work shoes and walks between courthouse columns to his job as a United States federal judge.
“The thing that sets this nation apart is the rule of law,” he told Overmyer.
Overmyer: Is it quite fitting that both in your career and in this sport the most important attribute is balance?
Sweet: “Well, certainly it’s clear in the skating. And of course, it’s true too in the judging.”
“I wouldn’t say that all skaters should be judges, and I certainly wouldn’t say all judges should be skaters,” he added.
Federal judges are appointed and remain on the bench for life. Sweet was appointed by former President Jimmy Carter in 1978. He’s had a career in law since the 1940s.
His sharp mind can remember even earlier, like 1927.
“I attended the Lindbergh ticker tape parade. I was a kid, I was five years old, but I remember it,” he said.
The judge didn’t even hit the ice until his 70s and only when his wife, an avid ice dancing fan, bought him a gift.
“One birthday, Adele gave me some figure skates. I thought, ‘Oh, isn’t that wonderful? She and I are going to go skating hand-in-hand through life.’ Well, her coach said, ‘Wait a minute, you have a very nice marriage. Don’t ever skate together. And besides which, you’re not good enough for her,’” Sweet explained.
So he skates. The sport forces him to use his entire body in concert, including his most important organ.
“Keeps the little gray cells operating, or you hope it does at any rate,” he said.
Sweet says ice dancing is a metaphor for life, because you always have to learn new things to become better – and most importantly, always maintain balance.