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by Dennis Wilson

May 28, 2005

Swam and rowed for Yale

Barney Phillips III was born at home in 1917 in Rye, N.Y. He was the sixth child, but the first boy in the family. He grew up in Rye and went to school there until he was sent away to prep school in the ninth grade, where he attended Portsmouth Abbey School in Portsmouth. He first learned to swim at the country club next door in a salt-water pool, by jumping off the diving board and swimming to the side at age five. He did not compete while growing up although he swam very well. He didn't have access to a pool while he has at the prep school, but started serious swimming while at Yale University in the practice pool under the guidance of a pool attendant, Harry Burke. He was not good enough to practice with the freshman team. Barney said, "With a great deal of encouragement I progressed sufficiently and with the help of what was then called "body building" I grew in height and increased in weight and was able to join the team as a sophomore."

He first competed at Yale University during the 1936-1937 swimming season and received his college letter during his senior year in 1939. He swam under the well-known coach Robert Kiputh, who amassed an amazing record of 528 wins to 12 losses. There were two losses during his three years on the team. Barney said, "I always enjoyed my swimming days and the competition at Yale and the physical training was invaluable to me during all my many later years."

After graduating from Yale with a degree in chemical engineering, he went into the Navy and was assigned to active duty in 1941 as an officer specializing in aviation maintenance on an aircraft carrier. He served in WWII.

After the war he was in charge of international sales of technical products for a private company from 1945 to 1973 when he retired to Mexico. He continued to swim for fitness during these years after college. In 1986 he and his wife Isabelle, married since 1943, returned to the states and decided to live close to their daughter in Ft. Smith, Ark.

Following his first back operation for a herniated disk he was sent to aquatic therapy in the early fall of 1988. When he finished with the three times per week therapy sessions, he joined the Marvin Altman Fitness Center and started swimming again. There he met Bud Jackson who introduced him to Masters swimming; and they soon became good friends and swimming partners. Barney said, "Bud Jackson has helped me the most with his enthusiasm and encouragement for me to keep swimming." His first meet was held in Fayetteville, Ark.

One of the highlights of his Masters swimming was the Senior Olympics in San Antonio, Texas in 1995 where he won three gold medals and a silver while recovering from back operations. He was also Arkansas Master Swimmer of the Year for 1992 and 2001 and set a Texas record at the zone meet in Austin in 1998 for the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 34.03 seconds at the age of 80. Barney holds a large number of freestyle records in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Barney said, "I participate to maintain my health and for the opportunity to be with and enjoy the company of many interesting and dedicated swimmers." He participates in six or more local meets per year and attends national meets every two or three years depending upon the location.

His goal after entering the 85-89 age group in 2002 is to reach the 90-94 age group and set records.

He swims four to six times a week, 1600+ yards, either doing the coaches workout or swimming a 500 warm-up, 300 kick, 300 pull, 500 drill and some sprints. Around 1997 he was diagnosed with lymphoma and periodically undergoes chemotherapy. He says, "I am continually motivated to keep swimming in order to better fight my slowly progressing non-Hodgkin's symptoms, which is presently incurable."

His other athletic activities are rowing, which he did at Yale and competing in a single racing shell. He has competed in the Head of the Charles Regatta in Cambridge, Mass., four times and always places well in his age group as well as being the oldest competitor.

He is not currently active in his LMSC or at the national level, but was the Arkansas LMSC registrar and treasurer for three years, and Top Ten registrar for another two years until health problems made it necessary for him to stop. He has never attended a USMS convention.

He married his wife, Isabelle, during WWII in 1943. She swims, but is not interested in exercise, although she supports his involvement in swimming and rowing. They have three grown children ages 58, 55, and 49, all married, and seven grandchildren ranging in age from 34 to 16 years. His son does triathlons and skiing as competitive sports and does very well in both for his age group. His two daughters exercise, but do not compete and neither do their spouses. None of his grandchildren are participating in competitive sports at the present time although they did in high school. They all swim well but do not train or compete.

Barney has been retired since 1973 and has managed to keep busy with civic and personal activities. His hobbies are clock and watch collecting; working with hand tools, simple repairing of watches, clocks, and jewelry. He also enjoys genealogy and traveling. Barney said, "When we previously lived in Guadalajara, Mexico I was in charge of the engineering and maintenance of our 240 home development and now in Fort Smith, I am currently on the Mayor's Fitness Committee and am very active in the Rotary Club in Ft. Smith."