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Remembering Anne McGuire

A boundless appetite for sports and people

Sharon Robb | July 19, 2000

Anne McGuire of Delray Beach, Florida, a former world and national age group swimming champion, record holder and swim instructor, died early Wednesday morning (July 1, 1998) after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 63. She was named Florida Gold Coast Female Swimmer of the Year in November and is the most recent addition to the Florida Gold Coast Masters plaque at the International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum. She is survived by her husband, Jim, a physics professor at Florida Atlantic University, four children and seven grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family asked donations be made in her name to the aquatics department at Purdue University, her alma mater. (Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, July 3, 1998)

A Celebration of the Life of Anne McGuire, based loosely on a story in the Dixie Zone News.

When Gold Coast swimmers, tennis players, marathon runners, people in the FAU university community, people Anne had taught, and others arrived at her home on Friday, July 3, we were greeted with a sign saying "Welcome to a celebration of the life of Anne Bardwell McGuire. It is taking place in this house that was her house. Please circulate freely and enjoy her presence."

Over the course of the several hours many, many dozens of people were there. Nearly everyone was upbeat as Anne would be. Jim (her husband) led that spirit, as did her two daughters and two sons and their spouses. Sallie, her daughter from Atlanta, was overheard comforting someone who hadn't managed to get into the spirit. She sounded like Anne, looked like Anne, was dressed like Anne. So Anne hadn't left. Anne's son from Vero Beach, Scott, was overheard telling a friend that each of her kids had spent private time with Anne in her last days so that each had the chance to say what they wanted to say and Scott said they were OK.

Anne's family was really there for us.

Pool is Her Therapy, by Sharon Robb, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, April 26, 1998

It hasn't always been easy to stick to her daily regimen, but swimming has given Anne McGuire strength and optimism in her battle against cancer. Although she can't train hard because of cancer treatments, Anne McGuire still is able to compete in the Masters National Swimming Championships.

Fort Lauderdale—Anne McGuire gets out of a pool a little slower these days. She sleeps more and her stamina is not quite what it used to be.

McGuire, 63, of Delray Beach, was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent a hysterectomy in November 1996. Seven months later, doctors found a cancerous tumor on her spine. She underwent five weeks of radiation treatment. In January 1998 doctors found more cancer. Every three weeks she undergoes chemotherapy in her doctor's office.

Through it all, the grandmother of six never misses a day in the pool. "This keeps you out of the cancer world." McGuire said. "You think you're not even sick when you are swimming. If it wasn't for swimming...”

"My doctor is not used to people like me. I just think maybe I can survive longer if I keep my life going. I am not dying of cancer, I'm living with cancer. I feel I'm lucky to be here."

McGuire is competing for the Boca Raton YMCA at the YMCA Masters National Swimming Championships, which end today at the International Swimming Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex. Timed finals are 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Among her best finishes are second place in the 400-yard individual medley in 7:33.37 and fourth place in the 50-yard breaststroke in 45.15 in the 60-64 age group.

McGuire missed February's Masters Challenge because of her chemotherapy treatments. She was sick to her stomach. The radiation treatments left her tired. Still, she found the strength to make it through her 3,000-meter daily workout and teach water aerobics and swimming. She just wasn't ready to compete.

"I just don't have the strength to do the faster workouts like I did before," she said. "I know I can't win at this meet, but for me to do the race and finish is important and my friends ... they all know."

McGuire, a world and national age-group champion and record holder, is mad at herself for not being more competitive. She is not used to finishing out of the top three. "The chemotherapy leaves you real tired because your blood count goes way down," she said. "My blood count right now is the lowest it's been. I can't really swim fast because the oxygen doesn't get through to my muscles.”

"Now, I can't train that hard because of the chemo. But I make it through the whole workout and that's the main thing. When I'm off the chemo, I hope I can come back and swim faster again."

At the August 1997 U.S. Masters National Championships in Orlando, McGuire won six national titles. That was just after she finished her first radiation treatments. In November 1997, McGuire was named Florida Gold Coast Female Swimmer of the Year for her accomplishments and the role swimming played in her fight against cancer.

McGuire's zest for life and insistence on swimming every day helps pull her through the ordeal. She has received hundreds of letters telling her what an inspiration she is.

"Just lovely letters," she said. "People I don't even know are writing me and cheering for me at the meets. It's nice to have friends."

She jokes about losing her hair and wearing a wig. "It looks just like ... even better than my own hair," she said with a laugh.

She had to postpone a trip to Australia with her husband, a college professor. She took up golf and is playing nine holes in the afternoon. "It's never over with.... Once you have cancer, it's forever," McGuire said. "You just have to learn to live with it, lead as normal a life as you can."

from the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, April 26, 1998, by Sharon Robb

 

Anne McGuire, by Ken Sugiura, The Boca Raton News, June 18, 1996

Like any proud parent, Sallie Kerr has a baby album listing her children's firsts. Kerr's baby books, though, have a little twist.

"It's the first time they swam freestyle, the first time they swam breaststroke," she explains. "It's all swimming stuff. It has nothing to do with walking or crawling." Kerr's two children have Grandma Anne to thank for that.

Anne McGuire, a longtime Delray Beach resident, likes to boast that swimming is a lifetime sport. If there are any doubters, McGuire herself is Exhibit A. Last month, at the U.S. Masters National Short Course Championships in Cupertino, Calif., McGuire, 62, conducted her own personal gold rush, winning the 100-yard butterfly (1:27.72), the 200 fly (3:16.95), the 50 breaststroke (39.95) and the 400 individual medley in the 60-64 age group. McGuire also came in second in the 100 breaststroke (1:28.51) and the 200 breaststroke. McGuire travels to Sheffield, England, on Wednesday for the World Masters Championships where she will swim all of those events except for the 100 fly. There, she hopes to haul home more accolades in a sporting career absolutely bursting with them.

McGuire swam for Purdue, which had the first-ever women's college swim team. She missed qualifying by one place for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics in the 200-meter breaststroke. In 1954, she swam the butterfly leg in a 400-yard medley relay that set a world record. Since then, she has taken up running, tennis and triathlons and won, won, won. All the while, she has kept on piling up Masters swimming trophies, and, oh yeah, raised four children with husband Jim, a physics professor at Florida Atlantic.

"I'm trying to slow the aging process," says McGuire. Yeah, McGuire is fighting old age—and old age is on its knees.

She wakes up at 6 a.m. for swim practice. When the weather is cooler, a five-mile run precedes swimming. She hops into the Aqua Crest pool in Delray with her Gold Coast Masters teammates by 6:20 a.m., where she puts in between 3,000 and 3,500 yards in about an hour and a half. She's home by 8:00, and then is out the door by 10:30, off for a full day of private swim lessons to kids, adults, whomever. After teaching she unwinds with nine holes at Delray Beach Golf Club. She picked up the game just a few years ago, and has her handicap down to 26.

She weighs 117 pounds, the same that she weighed as a 17-year old. A few years back, she wore her size four high school prom dress to a costume party. Some daughters wish for their mother’s patience, or wisdom. Says Kerr of her mom, "I wish I had her legs." "It's fun once you get into it. You don't want to stop," says McGuire of swimming, but she might as well be describing her calorie-burning, cross-training lifestyle.

At the core of her drive is a boundless appetite for sports and people. "She's very interested in everybody and what they do," says International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee and fellow Purdue alumnae June Krauser , who travels with McGuire to all the meets. "She just loves people." Before retiring, McGuire taught physical education at Atlantic and Trinity Lutheran, was a youth soccer and tennis coach and assisted in building Aqua Crest.

"I support sports for children, because it makes 'em a better person if they've done sports," says the Birmingham, Ala., native with a hint of a drawl. "You don't have to be good, either. You just have to be a participant."

McGuire will tell you, though, that just being a participant isn't quite enough for her. When Kerr and her sister Margaret ran in road races with their mother, they would point out women who looked like they were in her age bracket and goad her into chasing them down. It never failed. "I'm not surprised," says Kerr of her mother's swimming success. "She always wins. It's kind of surprising if she doesn't." McGuire was a touch rankled a couple weeks ago when she found out her world ranking in an event she didn't enter in England. "I didn't know I was number one in the 100 fly," said McGuire, who is in the world top 10 in 15 different events in her age group. "That's the way it goes." You know. Typical grandmother problems.

McGuire says she isn't sure how she'll do in England. The trouble is that you never know who's going to show up at the meets, and there might be someone who just moved up into your bracket. Either way, McGuire, who's already won two world titles, won't give up first place without a struggle. "It's sort of like life. You don't want to be crummy," she says. "You want to do the best you can."

 

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