Trueline Spotlight: Riding Her Own Story

Reading Time: 6 minutes
Mary & Paxton

At the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, a group of collegiate U.S. hockey players did the unthinkable, beating the mighty Soviet Union—a team that had trounced the Americans 10-3 in exhibition play just weeks before—in what would forever be known as The Miracle on Ice.

Many remember exactly where they were when the final seconds wound down. Including a 14-year-old Mary Jordan.

“My siblings and I were walking around our house banging pots and pans and just going crazy,” Jordan recalls. “It was one of those formative moments. I think the Olympics always meant more to me because of that. I began to see that the impossible could, in fact, be possible.”

Broadening Horizons

Growing up in nearby Clinton, New York, Jordan used the event to fuel her own athletic prowess: field hockey, soccer, figure skating, track-and-field, horseback riding.

But it was her academic curiosity that led Jordan farthest afield. After graduating from Clinton High School, Jordan—inspired by a trip she’d taken to visit her sister six years earlier—spent a year studying in Switzerland.

“I got there with $150 in my pocket, at a school with no dorms, and I didn’t speak Italian—yet,” Jordan says with a laugh. “I rented the top floor of a 18th century Italian villa for $180 a month. I took six classes; I went to Greece for a month. I made some great friends during that time—and traveled and read as much as I could, hitting a different country or two every month.”

Mary in Egypt

The following year, she enrolled at the University of Rochester, not far from where she grew up. Despite the reverse culture shock, Jordan quickly found a home in the school’s English department, inhaling the works of Shakespeare, Fitzgerald and Hemingway and eventually rescinded her long-held aversion for the family trade (her mother was a trained poet and professor). 

Accompanying a friend on a trip to Maine, Jordan fell in love with New England. So much that she decided to transfer to the University of New Hampshire for her sophomore year—and switch her major to English.

Hot Off the Presses

It was there that Jordan met her future husband, Alan. The two were married not long after graduation—around the time that Jordan landed her first writing gig as a reporter covering the Berwicks for Foster’s Daily Democrat.

While town meetings made up the bulk of her beat, Jordan also broke one of the area’s biggest stories in recent memory, about a local tannery that was storing toxic chemicals on the banks of Salmon Falls River.

“My editor borrowed a plane and had me ride along to take pictures of the contamination site. While hanging out of the window,” Jordan recalls. “The EPA eventually shut the plant down.”

In 1992, the two moved to Maine, where Jordan continued her career at the Journal Tribune in Biddeford and later the Portland Press Herald—and soon welcomed the couple’s only child, Tristan, into the family. (She and Alan now live in Wells). Before long, Jordan had reignited her lifelong passion for horse-riding, participating in numerous national competitions.

The Jordan Family

Then, in 2002, came news that would forever alter Jordan’s life: She’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the same disease that had stricken her father James, an Episcopal minister and philosophy professor, when she was just six months old.

“I was the third person in my family to have MS, along with my Dad and sister,” Jordan says. “That was a pretty dark time. With my dad, I’d seen the worst possible case of the disease. I never saw him stand or walk. I initially was terrified, but was more than determined to carve out the best possible path for my family.”

A New Calling

Inspired by her father’s unfailing positivity, Jordan was determined to stay active. She immersed herself in health, wellness and equestrian competitions, winning three National Championship titles in 2007.

“It was important for me to move forward, particularly for Tristan,” Jordan says. “You can’t just tell a child you’re going to be ok. I wanted to show him how things are different now and what a person with MS can achieve. You fight fear by setting an example.”

She also got involved in advocacy for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Through the organization, Jordan was introduced to a representative from Teva Pharmaceuticals, who was putting together a team of elite athletes under the company’s Copaxone brand, to serve as ambassadors for the MS community.

As part of the sponsorship, Jordan undertook regular speaking engagements—an experience she says was nothing short of lifechanging.

“I had a chance to travel across the country and speak to MS patients and deliver a message of hope,” Jordan reflects. “To share my family’s story, along with my own journey—it was incredibly powerful.”

Riding Tall

In 2010, Jordan earned a spot on the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, as part of the Team USA Para-equestrian team. Of the more than 600 horses that participated in the games, her 10-year-old mare, Paxton Abbey, born in Mary’s lap, was the only one to be bred, raised and trained by one person (Jordan, of course).

Mary & Paxton

Jordan wound up finishing 13th in the world. But while the accomplishment was certainly thrilling, nothing could compare to the feeling she felt at the Opening Ceremony—and the memories it conjured.

“I’ll never forget, Muhammad Ali was in the stadium, riding in this fancy convertible, and we were right behind him,” Jordan recalls. “When you hear 25,000 people screaming ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!’ at the top of their lungs—there’s nothing like it. I was hoarse, my cheeks ached from smiling so hard and I got chills. Just like watching the Miracle on Ice.”

Since then, Jordan has been selected as an alternate for the 2012 London Paralympic Games; an alternate for the 2014 World Equestrian Games; competed and trained in England, Germany and Holland; and participated in Nations Cup events in Australia, Canada, Belgium and Norway.

Mary training with Olympian Philip Dutton

She also found a new home as a writer, joining Trueline in February 2019. Hundreds of articles and countless “Spinal Tap” jokes later, Jordan says she’s thrilled to work at a place where a healthy work-life balance is encouraged—and where her second passion can be put on full display.

“There are two things that have always come naturally to me: riding and writing. I’m so lucky to get to do both.”

“There are two things that have always come naturally to me: riding and writing,” Jordan says. “I’m so lucky to get to do both.”

Fun Facts:

Biggest crush from the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team: I’d have to say Jimmy Craig. His story is amazing; I’m so impressed with what he had to overcome. Pure heart, talent and mental toughness. I can’t imagine the focus he conjured up for that Olympic tournament, in the net, facing the Soviets.

Desert island album:
“My husband’s band’s first album! The group is Heavens to Murgatroid. He’s an amazing drummer and the journey of that album was almost a dream come true. They produced the top college single “EMM” and were up for a record contract against Green Day. I think the record company made the wrong choice.”

Best “Spinal Tap” Quote:
“That’s Hard!  Multiple ones make me erupt spontaneously in laughter. But it’s hard to top ‘These go to eleven.’”

Most memorable equestrian competition: Winning the Waredaca Three-Day Event in Maryland with Paxton. It was a horse triathlon and there was torrential rain from the moment I got there—and it was the most physical of competitions. I galloped and jumped a cross-country course jumping in and out of ponds, did a steeplechase course full-tilt in sideways rain. While most people come with an entourage and a coach, I did it all by myself with my favorite horse. We showed up and I led the competition from start to finish. With that we won three national titles, beat Olympians and Paxton earned Horse of the Year—and we slashed a stereotype about MS in the process.

“We showed up and I led the competition from start to finish. With that we won three national titles, beat Olympians and Paxton earned Horse of the Year—and we slashed a stereotype about MS in the process.

Favorite Wells Hangout: The Bitter End. Since college Alan and I love to talk about anything and everything over a beer and dinner.