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Remembering Dorothy Donnelly's Amazing Contributions

The gold standard

Author Unknown | May 23, 2001

Dear Dorothy ...

*If Ransom Arthur is the "Father of Masters swimming" and June Krauser is the "Mother", then you are the "Fairy Godmother" who makes everyone feel good about our sport. Jack Geoghegan

*You have been the mainstay of United States Masters swimming for over 20 years and have served our organization in so many ways. USMS would not be where it is today without you. Thanks for all you have done. Tom Boak

*We would all be lucky to be like you when we grow up. As your doctor said after one calamity two years ago, "Dot's really not old," and at any age you are a delight to know and count as a friend. Bill Black

*Thanks for the memories from Memphis to Australia to New Zealand, with lots of good races, a precious few wins and lots and lots of laughs along the way...Most of all, thanks for being my FRIEND. Mary Lee Watson

*Your incomparable candor, enthusiasm, charm, wit, humor, common sense and unselfish dedication of your time have provided much of what makes USMS the unique user-friendly organization it is today. We have all been blessed by your service. Dan Gruender

*You have been and, of course, will continue to be a fantastic ambassador for Masters swimming! You have been with our organization from its infancy, helping it to form its goals and objectives and to grow and blossom. Nancy Ridout

*It's always so pleasant talking to you, even though I know it means one more rush job. Gene Donner (printer)

*Your guidance through my term of office as USMS president was invaluable. You kept me updated and timely with all correspondence. You will be missed by me and the organization, and your spirit will continue to be an inspiration to all. Mel Goldstein

*D – Dedicated,
 O – Olympian, 
T – Thoughtful, 

D – Delightful,
 O – One of a Kind,
 N – Nice,
N – Neat,
 E – Enthusiastic,
 L – Loves to Swim, 
L – Leader,
 Y – Yankee. Barbara Larsen

*You have a deep and abiding love for swimming that you share freely with all who are fortunate enough to come into contact with you. Your legacy of friendship and dedication will be a constant challenge to your successor. Nancy and Jim Miller

*Having shared you as a mother to so many Masters for so many years, I feel like I'm losing a part of my family. Jerianne Donnelly

*Thank you for being there. Without your experience, guidance, knowledge, wit and persistence, I would not have been able to do my job as president. Mike Laux

*I would like to thank you for all the help you have been to me personally over the years... You have been a tower of strength and your ready assistance has been much appreciated... Perhaps I can speak for all overseas Masters, certainly those from "Down Under" in wishing you a very happy retirement and lots of swimming. Tom Logan, New Zealand

*You are a competitor, an administrator, and a prime example of THE volunteer, without whom Masters swimming would not have achieved its eminence in the United States and world aquatic communities... Thank you for all your efforts over these years as a friend, volunteer, and as executive secretary of United States Masters Swimming. Ted Haartz

Dorothy Donnelly has served as USMS executive secretary since 1985 and will be retiring from the position as of December 31, 1996. To some, Dorothy has been the friendly and helpful voice answering the phone at the national office, and to many others, she has become a close friend and confidant. To everyone, she has served as a goodwill ambassador for Masters swimming, generously sharing her genuine love for swimming and swimmers around the world. USMS salutes Dorothy Donnelly in her retirement with a few well wishes from some of her closest friends and associates.

published in SWIM magazine, Nov-Dec 1996

After a late start by today's standards, learning to swim at 14 and starting competition at 15, Dorothy Leonard Donnelly made up for lost time by being associated with the water since 1937. She began winning Class B, Junior and Senior New England and Massachusetts State Championships, culminating in her first National AAU Championship (220-yard freestyle) in 1939 and again in 1941. She twice won the high point medal at short course nationals, once without winning a first place, a tribute to her all around versatility.

At the 1940 Olympic trials, Dorothy won a berth in the 100-, and 400-meter freestyle and the 4x100 relay. The Olympics were torpedoed by the imminent World War II—she finally got a trip abroad as Coach/Manager/Chaperone of the United States Synchronized Swimming Team which toured five weeks in Belgium, France and Spain in 1958.

Dorothy started teaching and coaching both competitive and synchronized swimming in 1947, introduced competitive synchronized swimming in Connecticut and was Connecticut chairman of the sport for 18 years, developing many national champions. She served as national vice chairman and also chairman of public relations. Daughter, Jerianne, now an avid Masters participant and administrator, started her swimming career in College Aquatic Arts.

Dorothy was registration chairman for Connecticut AAU for 20 years, as well as for Connecticut Swimming and Track and Field. She has been honored by the AAU with a 40-year Service Pin, by US Swimming with the Phillips 66 Outstanding Service Award, culminating in the USMS Ransom Arthur Award in 1983. Dorothy was elected USMS secretary in 1981, and in 1984 was selected as the first executive secretary for USMS, retiring at the end of 1996.

When Masters swimming was introduced by the AAU, Dorothy co-hosted with Mike Laux the first Northeastern Masters meet in 1972. Starting in the 50-54 age group, she enjoyed 15 years of personal bests, All-American status, and national and world championships and records. Dorothy competed in YMCA Masters - In 1992 she was the listed record holder in the 100-yard freestyle in four age groups. She also participated in all the National Senior Olympics with similar results.

The joy ride slowed down to a walk by 1995—following a broken hip, cataract implants, angioplasty, uterine cancer, and finally a complete hip replacement. Back in the water but swimming at a much slower pace, she still competes in nationals and local meets—that's where all her friends are! She hopes to remain active in Masters swimming "for the rest of her life" both in the water and on local and national committees. Masters swimming is a way of life.

Dorothy L. Donnelly died in her home in Rutland, Mass., on May 17, 2000. She swam for Connecticut Masters Swim Team.


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