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The Aquatic Career of Lee Lincoln Starr

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Lee Starr | May 28, 2005

Lee Lincoln Starr, in his own words: "My swimming career started when I was a member of the Evander Childs High School Swim Team in New York City. It was one of the top teams in the city, and that earned me a two-year scholarship to Fordham University, where I swam on its championship team.

After spending four years in law school, I was hired by the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn to manage a 40-meter pool and health club. Early in the three years I spent there, I organized the Dragon Club Swim Team. It competed most favorably against the teams of the New York Athletic Club and the Women's Swimming Association, and produced many champions and record holders. It was during this time we pioneered the development of the "butterfly" receiving many disqualifications for using an illegal stroke. Finally, with the aid of Bob Kiputh and Phil Moriarity of Yale, we accomplished our goal of making it a legal stroke. To keep my own swimming up to par, I worked out with the Spence brothers, Buster Crabbe and Eleanor Holm.

I tried out for the 1932 Olympic Swim Team, and upon reaching the semi-finals, I was stricken with acute appendicitis. In 1933, I swam on the New York City team that competed at the Chicago World's Fair, setting a record which Buster Crabbe shortly erased.

In the fall of 1933, I enrolled in the Physical Education School at the University of Missouri. Since there was no men's swim team, I organized, swam in, and coached one until my graduation in 1935. After receiving my degree in physical education, I managed the New York Park Central Hotel pool and gym for one year.

In June 1936, after having passed a New York City Civil Service exam, I was appointed Supervisor of Park Operations. Later that year I was appointed Director of the 1936 Olympic Trials for swimming, diving, and water polo. They were held in Astoria Pool on Long Island.

At the conclusion of the 1936-37 World's Fair, I produced and directed water shows at the New York State Amphitheater in Flushing Meadow until I entered the Navy in 1942. I was on active duty until the end of World War II, then stayed in the Naval Reserve until my retirement at the end of 1969.

During my tenure in the Department of Parks, I directed the "Learn to Swim" program sponsored by the New York Daily Mirror and the Department of Parks for four years; established the N.Y.C. lifeguard training school; became a member of the Board of Directors of the Conference for National Cooperation in Aquatics, chairing its annual conference in 196l and l962 at the University of Indiana; chaired a working group whose subject was "Safety in Aquatics"; was again Director of Trials for the U.S. Olympic Aquatic Team; and was promoted to Director of Park Operations.

As director, I was responsible for the operation and maintenance of parks, playgrounds, pools, golf courses, and beaches. During that period I was president of the Municipal Buildings and Grounds Maintenance Council, and was named a director of the Navy League.

Upon retiring from the Park Department, I became Vice President of Marinas of the Future, supervising the construction of the Marina at Flushing Meadow for the l963-64 World's Fair. The following eight years were spent as superintendent in charge of construction of conventional and nuclear power plants for Consolidated Edison.

After moving to Sun City, Ariz., in 1971, I taught swimming classes for retirees until 1978, when I became acquainted with USMS by attending a meet in San Antonio, Texas.

After becoming a member in 1979, I thought Sun City should have a Masters swim team. Using students from my former classes as a nucleus, I was able to get together a good team. I have been a member of the American Swim Coaches Association since l981. The team works out five mornings per week. They do not use a typical workout because they excel in different strokes. I tailor each person's program according to his/her physical configuration and the stroke in which they excel. My principal accomplishments for USMS was in making a championship team out of a lot of people who didn't think they could do it.

As for myself, l have competed in local, state, national, and international meets since 1979. My most memorable year in competition was 1981, when I became All-American four times, and won a gold in Japan in l986. I have ranked in Top Ten in world and national competition several times, and have continued in competition up to the present time—2000.

My wife and I met at the University of Missouri in 1934 and were married in 1936 after her graduation. Although she has been active in sports, her career was in teaching in high school.

We have two sons, Leighton Morgan and Douglas Lee. Leighton was on his college swim team and a pitcher on the baseball team. Douglas was a Little League player, but became a golfer in Jr. High, which he continues to the present.

Leighton is the father of three and is an engineer at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Douglas is the father of two and was a captain in the Marine Corps. He is currently purchasing manager of the Toledo Molding and Die, Inc., in Toledo, Ohio."

The following rememberance was submitted by Edie Gruender:

Lee Lincoln Starr passed away peacefully at the Hospice of Arizona at Freedom Plaza on Thursday, December 11, 2003. He was born in l909 in New York City. He was a native of New York City, attended Fordham University on a swimming scholarship and swam on its championship team. After attending Fordham Law School he managed the St. George Hotel Pool and Health Club, organized its swim team and helped pioneer the "butterfly" stroke and qualified for the 1932 Olympics but was stricken with appendicitis and could not compete. He later attended Missouri University where he lettered in swimming, football, baseball and track. He also met his wife-to-be, Hazel, was married and returned to NYC as a supervisor in the Parks Department.

At the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Navy and as a Chief, taught enlistees hand-to-hand combat and later served on destroyers in the South Pacific as a gunnery/supply landing officer. He remained in the Naval Reserve for 23 years, attaining the rank of Lt. Commander. After the war he returned to the Department of Parks and Playgrounds. During this time he served as commander of the VFW Post for city employees. He then became Vice President of Operations for the 1964 World's Fair Marina and then was general superintendent for a number of major construction projects. Lee participated in the early negotiations to locate the United Nations building. Other interests and accomplishments included a Golden Glove, becoming one of three licensed ring announcers and serving on the 1964 Olympic Committee.

In 1971, Lee and his wife retired to Sun City where Lee taught swimming and was the driving force behind the Sun City Masters Swim Program. He competed with the team until the age of 91. During his tenure he set over 70 state, national and international records and medaled in over 500 events. He also was a member of the President's Physical Fitness Council for both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. He was a ten-time All American and his records are on display at the International Swimmers' Hall of Fame at Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. His ultimate swimming memory was attained when the Sun City Swim Team renamed the group "The Sun City Starr's."

Lee is survived by his wife of 67 years, Hazel; two sons, Leighton and Douglas; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.



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