Remembering Lynne Blackburn Weir
So many wins and records
For the past seventeen years I have had the great fortune to have trained and competed with many Masters swimmers from the South Oakland Seals. I have known many great outstanding masters swimmers from SOS but Lynne Weir stands out to be especially remembered. When Lynne passed away on April 7, 1998 she had just turned 57. She started swimming as a youngster in Indiana and qualified for the 1956 Olympic Trials in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. She started Masters swimming in 1974. Some of her friends and competitors at the time were Jennifer Parks, Joyce Burrell, Carolyn DeLuca, Peggi Wirth, and Carol Rhudy. At the 1975 USMS Short Course Nationals at age 34; Lynne placed fourth in the 1650, fifth in the 500 free, 100 breast, and the 200 breast, and seventh in the 50 fly. Also that year she volunteered to be secretary of Michigan Masters Swimming Association. In 1976, aging up to the 35-39 age group, she won 3 national titles at the Long Course Nationals taking the 100-, 400-, and 1500-meter freestyles and taking second place in the 50 and 200 freestyles. In the 1976-77 short course yards season she set national records in the 50-, and 200-yard freestyles and would have had one in the 100-yard free but was beaten out by Michigan Masters teammate Joyce Burrell from Lansing who got that national record. Lynne ended up winning the 500-yard free and was second in the 1650 free. She ended up with six first place times in the National Top Ten for 1976-77. She was also meet director of the 1977 Michigan Masters State Championship Meet at West Bloomfield High School along with King Yeager and was appointed Women's Records Chairman at the annual meeting.
From 1977 to 1981 Lynne coached the Oakland Community College (OCC) Women's swim team and was responsible for getting the SOS team workouts moved from the Birmingham YMCA to OCC on weekends and two years later getting the annual SOS swim meet at that location. SOS is still practicing at OCC to this day. Lynne did not compete in the 1978-79 season because of coaching responsibilities at OCC. In 1981, Lynne was the meet director of the first short course yards zone championship held in Michigan at OCC. She also aged up to the 40-44 age group and won the 50-meter free and the 100-meter free, setting a national record in the latter at the Long Course Nationals. In 1982, she was meet director of the 1982 Michigan Masters State Championship Meet along with Ed Gray and helped lead SOS to their first State Championship. This was about the time I joined the SOS team and I remember the first time I met Lynne Weir. It was at the Cranbrook Swim Club and I was there for the first workouts of the summer. Bo Rhudy introduced me to the members of the team. I remember reading about the SOS team in the newspaper and they were the largest team in my local area. The people that were there that day were: Dennis and Connie Carter, Bo and Carol Rhudy, Ed Gray, Matt Kanzler, Tom Spear, Tom Koenig, Pete Morrisey, Paul Ciske, Ray Martin, Ed Brown, Ed Campbell, Ian Pesses, Dennis Laurish, David Harell, Joan Runkel, Barb Church, Barb Dreher, Gayle Champagne, Sue Thoms, and Berge Najarian. I remember the workout we did and it was so hard. I remember being sore and tired but I showed up the next day at Beachview Swim Club and Tom Spear put us through a grueling IM workout. I didn't know most of these people but they were a powerful group that captured by imagination because they worked out so hard and did very challenging workouts and that was my style. Lynne Weir was one of the best that day and did the whole workout with everybody else.
I remember going to a Labor Day party in 1982 at Bo and Carol Rhudy's house. There were 30 or so people there and they seemed to be very friendly and nice besides being very good swimmers. It was apparent to me that Lynne was one of the leaders of this group of swimmers. The fall season would start and our team would begin workouts at OCC and Seaholm High School. The first meet I swam in was at OCC that the SOS team sponsored. All the people swimming in the meet got together at Pete Morrisey's house for a big party afterwards. They had accommodations for about 100 people. The party was a lot of fun. The next meet I remember going to was at Brighton High School on December 5, 1982. I remember Bo Rhudy getting a bus and everybody meeting at Lynne Weir's house to go to the meet together. About 20 people went. We had about 20 people from SOS go to the 1983 USMS Short Course Nationals at Fort Lauderdale to represent Michigan Masters. The team had a party at Tom Koenig's brother's house , which was great fun. Lynne went to the meet and was disappointed because she got three second, and three third places. I thought she did very well—as a comparision, I did not place in the Top 10 in anything. She was the Michigan Masters Women's High Point winner for the meet. The things I remember most about my first seven years of swimming was the meets and the socials that followed. It seemed the Rhudy's, Weirs, and Spears always had parties after SOS had sponsored meets for all Michigan Masters swimmers who swam in the meet. I got to know Lynne very well in the next four years.
From 1984 to 1986, Lynne swam in the YMCA Nationals and in the three years took 21 first place wins. The only other person I remember winning all their events for three straight years from Michigan Masters was Bob Jennings from 1991 to 1993 and he took 18 first places. The only relay that I was on that set a YMCA national record was with Lynne, Barb Dreher, and Tom Spear, all teammates from SOS. This was in 1985 at the Justus Aquatic Center in Orlando. Lynne also went to the first International World Masters Swimming Championship in New Zealand and won the 200, 400, 800, 1500 freestyles and took second place in the 50 free, 200 back, and 200 IM. She took 3rd place in the 100 free. In 1984, Lynne won the Chetrick award for outstanding service and commitment to Michigan Masters. At the time she was serving as President-Elect/Vice President of Michigan Masters to succeed President Mike Murphy in one year. Besides being meet director for many local and state championships and being Secretary and Records Chairman, she also served on the USMS Championship and International Committees.
The year of 1986 seemed to be a special year for Lynne. I remember Lynne hardly ever missing a workout, she taught classes at OCC so she was around the pool a lot. I remember her picking up the intensity in the workouts that we did as a team. She was swimming in the first of three groups of workouts which is the most yardage and has the toughest intervals to make. A lot of the training SOS did at OCC was distance based training and Lynne seemed to thrive on that. Back in those days it was common to go 6,000 yards for both Saturday and Sunday workouts. Our team would have workouts from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and would almost never be done early. We'd go to the local restaurant and catch breakfast and do some socializing to recover. I think almost everyone had to take a nap to get through the day.
Lynne would be aging up to the 45-49 age group in April so she was working extra hard for goals she wanted to achieve. Lynne and Bill Weir had several swimming parties at their home and entertained quite a bit. There is one party that I will never forget and I haven't been to one like this since. Lynne Weir and Barb Dreher were going to turn 45, I believe Barb is three days older than Lynne so they could celebrate together. They decided to have the party at "Larry Bridges Bar" (a former Masters swimmer who died of cancer) in Mexican Village in Detroit under the Ambassador Bridge that goes into Canada. I remember walking in and seeing about 100 people, mostly swimmers, from all over the state. Lynn and Barb were celebrating getting into the new age group and in the next six weeks would be attending the Y Nationals in Indy and the USMS Nationals in Florida. In two months they would be off to Tokyo, Japan for the 1986 World Championships along with Ed Gray. I think Lynne was really waiting for this moment. I know we all kind of go on this ritual when we age up as Masters swimmers. I remember the whole team really looking forward to her swimming really well at the World Championships in Tokyo.
At the 1986 USMS Short Course Nationals in Fort Pierce, Florida, Lynne won all six of her events. She won the 50, 100, 200, 500, 1650 freestyles and the 400 IM. She set USMS national records in the 500 and 1650 freestyles. Nobody in Michigan Masters swimming history has ever won six events at a USMS Nationals or taken first place in all freestyle events from 50 to 1650 distances. In Tokyo at the 1986 World Championships Lynne took first place in the 400 free, 800 free, and the 200 IM. All of the swims were USMS national records and the 800 free was a world record. She also took two second places in the 100 and 200 free. When the Top Ten for 1986 short course yards came out, Lynne won eight events, took second in three events and third in two events. She won the 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 1650 free and the 200 IM and the 400 IM. She set USMS national records in the 500, 1000, and 1650. When the Top Ten for 1986 long course meters came out she won two events, the 100 free and the 400 IM. For the year she had a total of 10 first place times in her age group. To top off the year she swam the USMS 10 Kilometer National Postal Swim and set a USMS national record of 2:47:07.36 which lasted until 1995. She accomplished all this while being President of Michigan Masters. 1986 would be the last year Lynne would ever compete for SOS and Michigan Masters.
In 1987, Lynne decided to take a well deserved break from masters competitive swimming but most of the people swimming on the team figured she would be back in a couple years working hard and setting some challenging swimming goals. Her term was up as president and our teammate Tom Spear became the new Michigan Masters president. I became treasurer of Michigan Masters at this time so I started to get more involved and she started to get less involved. I took Lynne's place on the Championship Committee after my first USMS convention in 1989 and became more involved with coaching and organizing workouts for SOS at OCC with Tom Spear that Lynne used to do. Between 1987 and 1989, our club SOS went through a lot of changes with people moving away or dropping out of swimming and with the new people coming in it was like a whole new group of people with about 10 regulars left from 1981-82. Lynne still practiced with the team and I figured it was her willingness to keep the irons in the fire until she decided to compete again. Her husband Bill began to get quite interested in working out with the team and we always encouraged him. He was one of the swimmers in the Gator lane with Bonnie Spear, Beth Rice, Carol Rhudy, Jo Faul, Lois Nochman and Ray Mondro. Lynne stopped practicing with the team in 1990. I got the sense that her enthusiasm for competitive swimming is tempered by the realization that she already made big statements. Lynne started to get involved in other interests such as Historical Preservation of Buildings and Structures. I remember her spending a lot of time in Kalamazoo and me talking to her about the historical buildings on Western Michigan University East Campus where I went to college. She was also involved in showing her dogs at competitions.
In 1991, Lynne started spending more time at her home in Big Pine Key, Fla. About 1992 was when a lot of us heard the news that she had been diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. In 1993, Bill Weir retired from TRW and they sold their home in Michigan. I know in the last five years she fought this disease very hard and seemed to be coming out ok. In 1997, she swam the Tampa Bay Open Water five kilometer swim and won her age group and also swam 12 miles around Key West that summer. I remember talking to Jean Garbus and Tom Koenig (swimmers from Michigan who live in Florida) at the nationals in Orlando last summer about Lynne and she seemed to defeat this disease. I was really happy everything was working out. I talked with Carol Rhudy and Jennifer Parks, who both visited Lynne recently and they said she seemed to be in fine health. Then she was diagnosed with a tumor in early March and died shortly thereafter.
I was talking with Jennifer Parks sometime in 1997 and we both commented that Lynne should have received the Lawrence Award, which is given to a Michigan Masters swimmer that achieves outstanding performances in USMS Masters swimming representing the Michigan Masters Club. Twenty one different people have won this award since 1978. Once you win the award you are not eligible to win it again. She got passed over somehow, not intentionally, it just kind of happened. I remember thinking in 1986, that for sure she will get that award someday because she was only 45 and had many years of swimming left. Boy was I wrong! This past year was the 25th anniversary of the formation of the SOS team and the winning of our 10th straight State Championship title. Our team has decided to institute an annual award devoted to an SOS swimmer whose service contributions, athletic performance, and dedication that best exemplifies the spirit, desire, and commitment for the advancement of Masters Swimming. Our team is going to present this at either the State Championship Meet or the Annual SOS Long Course meet in the summer at where a picnic usually takes place afterwards.
Carol Rhudy and I nominated Lynne for this award in February 1998. We were hoping that she could come to the 25th reunion of the SOS team at the State Championship at Eastern Michigan University. With the Easter Holiday coming up she could not make it. Most of us did not know at that time about Lynne's current diagnosis, so it was a real shock when we heard of her death. Regretfully, we will not be able to present her this award personally. SOS has had 38 All-Americans and at least 25 volunteers and officers that have contributed to the success of the SOS team and the Michigan Masters LMSC/Club organization. The day has come to give Lynne Weir her well deserved place in SOS history. On July 12, 1998 she will officially be the first one to receive this award.
How will Lynne be remembered: As a person who loved her family, got along with well with many people, and had a variety of interests. A person who got involved and cared about the development of Masters swimming. A swimmer who possessed talent, who worked hard to achieve goals and usually did, because she had worked so hard during her journey to attain them. She will go down as one of the best swimmers ever in Michigan Masters history. I am among those fortunate enough to have been influenced by some of things Lynne did and the SOS team benefits today by them. Her spirit and influence will live on with SOS and Michigan Masters. On behalf of the SOS team, we send our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Lynne Weir.
Only swimmer in Michigan Masters history to win six events at a USMS Nationals - 1986 Short Course Nationals. Won more events in the Short Course Yards Top Ten than any swimmer in Michigan Masters history (eight events). Only swimmer in Michigan Masters history to set USMS national records in all freestyle events from 50 to 1650. 50 and 200—1976, 100 —1981, 500, 1000, and 1650—1986. Had 10 Top Ten first places in Short Course Yards/ Long Course Meters seasons which ties Jewell Cooke for most titles in Michigan Masters history for a season. In 11 years won 21 USMS National Titles. USMS All-American eight total times 1976, 1977, 1981, 1984, 1986, and USMS Long Distance All-American 1979, 1984, 1986. FINA world record holder, 800 free 45-49 age group 1986. In two World Championship Meets, 1984 New Zealand, 1986 Japan; took seven firsts, five seconds, and one third. Has 29 Michigan Masters records dating back to 1986. Had the longest standing Open Water Long Distance National record in Michigan Masters History (1OK National Postal Swim) 1986 to 1995. Lynne's time in the 1650 at 1986 YMCA Nationals at Indianapolis would have won the 1998 USMS Nationals at Indianapolis by seven seconds, twelve years later.