- Human Interest
Remembering Lester O. Bell
Longtime Masters swimmer
On September 6, 2009, the Space Coast Masters Swim Team in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., lost a teammate and a friend. Lester O. Bell, 87, passed away at Holmes Regional Hospital in Melbourne after a brief illness. He was buried with military honors next to his loving wife at Arlington cemetery on September 22, 2009
His friend and former teammate, Phil Lindsley, remembered when Lester joined the team in January 1996.
“Lester retired to Melbourne Beach in 1990 after a 40 year career with the Toledo Edison Utilities Company as a materials manager. He was active in at least five veteran’s organizations, including the Military Order of the Purple Heart. When he joined our swim team, he had no experience in competitive swimming. However, he was no stranger to the water: in 1944, during his pre-war training days in Seattle, he saved his commanding officer and another soldier from drowning. For this, he was awarded the highest peace time award, the Soldier’s Medal."
His military service in World War II was an even more remarkable story. In January 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge at Bastogne, Lester, with the elite U.S. 82nd Airborne infantrymen, was seriously wounded and spent over a year in military and civilian hospitals. He received a Purple Heart for his bravery.
Angie Sinacore remembers when Lester joined the team too. "Lester appeared at the Gleason Park pool in Indian Harbour Beach to check out Space Coast Masters Swim Team. At that time, he could not easily swim one length of the pool. Nevertheless, he joined the team and many of us did not expect him to return. Lester did return! He persevered and soon we noticed that he made a remarkable improvement. With encouragement from the “regulars” on the team Lester began competing. Then Lester started winning some ribbons, then medals, and finally some “firsts.” He showed great determination."
In December 1997 he was awarded the first SPCO team Most Improved Swimmer Award. He has placed 14 times in the USMS Top Ten since 1998.
Angie said, "Lester will be remembered as a fun loving guy with a constant smile on his face. He could take jokes and also dish them out. I checked my old Space Coast newsletters and found Lester’s name in four of them: We will miss him.”