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Remembering Hal Onusseit

Ransom Arthur award recipient and so much more

Sally Dillon | July 19, 2000

Hal received the 1975 Captain Ransom J. Arthur, M.D. Award for his work in volunteering to establish and maintain the long course and short course records in individual events and relays for Masters Swimming, starting with the meet results from the first Masters Championship in Amarillo, Texas in 1970 and all other reported Masters meets subsequently through the time of his death in the summer of 1974.

Retyped by Sally Dillon from various accumulated sources - 7/7/10

April, 1924 - July, 1974, by Ted Haartz

For all of us who knew "Hal" personally, his sudden passing leaves a void in all of our lives.

After swimming for his high school team in Rochester, N.Y., and briefly in college, Hal returned to swimming in 1965. At that time the Waltham, Mass. Boy's Club had a businessmen's noontime swim three days a week and combined with a love for running also, Hal managed to do one or the other every noontime on a pretty regular basis.

In 1970, Swimming World reported the results of the first Masters National Championships held in Amarillo, Texas. The times indicated that Hal and I, from our friendly competition of the previous five years, could compete in this new program.

Hal's performances in Masters competition are now history. He won at least one national title in each championship he entered, and his butterfly leg of the medley relays helped with four more titles.

Hal was an excellent athlete, but few knew how hard he worked to achieve his level of performance. 70,000-100,000 yards a month during January-April was not uncommon. Hal would put in 1,800-,2000 yards at noontime and then come over to Tufts University after work and do one of his 1,500-2,000 yard workouts.

Hal was dedicated to detail. He kept records of all his workouts and could tell you how fast he swam the same workout a month ago and a year ago. During his four full years of Masters competition, he surpassed all of his high school and college times. This he attributed to better training techniques and longer workouts. Hal was a student of swimming as well as a participant. He read Carlile and Counsilman cover to cover as well as talking to and questioning coaches and swimmers whenever and wherever the opportunity presented itself.

Because he wanted to see how times would improve over the years, he soon found himself keeping the records and when Masters became a part of AAU, John Spannuth asked Hal if he would continue. This he had done, with the last revision having been made for the Short Course Nationals in May. It was a source of wonderment to him that the records to date had failed to stabilize and based on this year's performances, the onslaught will continue for some time to come.

Hal's family, his friends at G.T.E. Sylvania, his teammates of New England Masters, and all his other friends and associates will mourn his loss. But for all of us who knew Hal, our lives are a lot fuller and brighter because of his friendship.

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