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by Author Unknown

April 14, 2006

Joy of swimming

Dick Bennett, a long time Master swimmer, died Saturday. He swam for Rinconada for many years and was currently a member of Menlo Masters where he was affectionately known as the 'stroke doctor.' A title that pleased him enormously as he was never happier than when helping people swim easier and faster. In his long swimming career he held several national records and was the recipient of the Joy of Swimming award.

Dick Bennett was born in California, but raised in Hawaii where his father worked in the Naval Air Supply Department. His mother taught PE at the University of Hawaii. She also taught Dick to swim at Waikiki when he was about six. He swam in Recreation Department leagues and in high school. He claims he was a "very average swimmer," but he did earn his high school letter.

Dick started his college (academic and swimming) career at Dartmouth and later transferred to Stanford, where he graduated in 1952. He was commissioned in the Navy in 1953 and served six years flying helicopters doing search and rescue in Florida, Texas, Southern California, and Hawaii. After the Navy he worked for seven years at Ampex in Redwood City before returning to Stanford to work on their fundraising efforts. He credits his math background for getting him into fundraising. He could always "make numbers understandable."

Dick spent 26 years at Stanford in increasingly responsible positions. He was instrumental in the very successful Centennial fundraising campaign to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the school.

Dick started Masters Swimming in 1974 and attended his first nationals in 1976. He swam for Rinconada Masters and later Stanford before joining Menlo in 1998.

Dick retired from Stanford in 1992 and since then has devoted much of his time to spending time with his grandchildren, travel, and, of course swimming. Sometime he can combine all three. He still does much pro bono fundraising for organizations such as the Peninsula Community Foundation and the Pacific School of Religion.

Dick met his wife, Ann Kay, through swimming and the two of them frequently travel to national and international competitions. They have enjoyed a lot of success too in these contests. A particularly memorable one for Dick was the short course nationals in Nashville in 1991. He came away with five gold medals, one silver and notched a 57.9 for the 100 free!

Since 1993 Dick has had the number one time in the nation in the 50, 100, and 200 backstroke in both 1993 and 1996. In all he has had 52 national top ten swims since 1993 (1993-mid 2000).

Dick's swimming success is not limited to the pool however. He has done the Maui Channel Swim about ten times and was once third in the Waikiki Rough Water Swim. But when asked what his most memorable swim experience has been, he will tell you it was meeting Ann.

Most of Dick's friends are swimmers and in general he believes that Masters swimming makes them better people. He says that lap swimmers just don't have the same outlook as those who discipline themselves to hard work in a structured environment.

Dick has never coached swimming, but he is by nature analytical. He likes to look at the mechanics of swimming and then try to explain it. He readily shares his knowledge and vast experience with others and can often be seen after workouts helping teammates with the finer points of their technique.

When asked what his goals are, he readily answers, "To keep swimming"! But he also admits that he would like to do the Maui Channel Swim one more time.

This year the World Masters Championships (July 27 - August 7, 2000) are in Munich, Germany, and Dick and Ann both plan to be there. Dick will be at the young end of the 70-74 age group so he has a good shot at making a splash on the international scene. We would expect nothing less from a Menlo Masters Swimmer of the Year.

Article taken from the "Menlo Swimmer of the Year" 1999, written in 2000