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The Magnetic Watson Lawrence

Making people swim and smile

Patricia Sengstock | July 2, 2006

Watson was a great contributor to establishing Masters swimming in Illinois. He organized the club at B. R. Ryall YMCA. Early in 1973 I learned the Y had a 5:30 a.m. swim time. I had very young children then and had determined that I could go swimming at that early hour and get back home before my husband left for work. On my first day, I walked out of the locker room into the pool area and was confronted by this stranger, whom I would come to know as Watson Lawrence. He began extolling the benefits of joining the Masters swim club. I found it very amusing that he was expending all this energy trying to talk me into joining Masters when he didn't know if I could swim at all. It didn't matter, he told me. If I didn't know how to swim, they'd teach me! We discovered a neighbor of mine who was in the pool and they teamed up to further explain the benefits of Masters. When I noted that my hour was up, I headed back to get my shower and realized that I had not even managed to get my foot in the water! That was the first use of my YMCA membership—a shower and my Watson Lawrence initiation. To this day I cannot think of Watson Lawrence without smiling.

I think Nancy Lawrence swam for Ryall Masters in 1981. It must have been about 1982 that they moved to Washington state, so check with Pacific Northwest for the 1983/4 period.

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