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Remembering Ashby Harper

Once oldest Channel swimmer

Gary Weisenthal | July 1, 2006

Ashby Harper (1916 - 1992), once the oldest person to swim the English Channel, died on Saturday July 1, 1992 at the age of 75. Edie Gruender back in 1978 organized and ran the National Two Mile Open in conjunction wih her late father. It was in Wisconsin and I finished third behind Ashby who won first place. Ashby was from Albuquerque, NM and did not venture too far beyond the Rockies, preferring instead the open water of the Pacific Coast. When Doc Counsilman became the oldest swimmer to cross the channel, Ashby decided to challenge his feat. Poor Doc had had a bad moment with a Russian freighter in his successful effort.

Ashby did succeed and remains the oldest channel swimmer and we did exchange pleasantries when we both swam the 10k Postal in 1985 originally under the supervision of Dorothy LaPorte whose demise two days earlier cast a pall over the sun-baked Arizona LC venue. It was Ashby who recounted in detail the Brown-sponsored Menominee Falls episode which Rose Steward mentions in her oral.

Somewhat later, poor Ashby raced a younger swimmer to a West Coast open water finish and touched him out only to die on the sandy beach. He was a great guy who shied away from attracting too much attention toward himself. As of 2002, he remains the oldest English Channel swimmer—this among his many heretofore unheralded All-American Postals and Open Waters.

 

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