ISHOF Breaking News: The End Of An Era, Remembering Adolph Kiefer – June 27, 1918 – May 5, 2016
ISHOF Breaking News Sunday, May 7, 2017
The End Of An Era, Remembering Adolph Kiefer – June 27, 1918 – May 5, 2016 Wadsworth, Illinois, Friday May 5. –
Adolph Gustav Kiefer died at 6:00 o’clock this morning at his home in Wadsworth, Illinois. The great swimmer, lifesaver, innovator and entrepreneur whose passion for swimming was an inspiration to all who met him, was 98 years and 11 months old. At the time of his death he was the world’s oldest living Olympic gold medalist.In recent years, the greatest all-round swimmer of his generation was afflicted by neuropathy (nerve damage that causes weakness, numbness, and pain) in his legs and hands that kept him in a wheelchair, except during his daily swims, where he was able to walk again in chest deep water. The water, he said, is what kept him alive, even after the loss of his beloved wife, mother of his four children, business partner and best friend, Joyce, to cancer in May of 2015. They had been married for 73 years. With the support of his incredible family, he emerged from grief and resumed his weekly bridge games and social life. In spite of his incredible life, he never dwelled on the past, but was always thinking about new ways to end drowning and promote swimming. In recent months, he had been hospitalized with pneumonia and longed to be reunited with his beloved wife. He was an incredible man and his passing is truly the end of an era – as the last of the immortals from the first golden age of American swimming that included Duke Kahanamoku,Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Crabbe, Adolph Kiefer at ISHOF in 1965 Johnny Weissmuller, Gertrude Ederle, Eleanor Holm, Buster Crabbe and Esther Williams. As a child he hated getting water up his nose; so, he swam on his back. His father, a German born candy-maker died when he was only 12, but had encouraged his son to be the “best swimmer in the world”. Working furiously to make this a reality, he swam in any pool he could find. On Sundays, when the Wilson Avenue YMCA was closed, he would hop onto trucks, jump streetcars, anything to get to the only available pool, which was at the Jewish Community Center. He firmly believed that the reason he became a world champion was simple, he loved swimming more than anyone else.At the 1933 World’s Fair, he worked as a lifeguard in the Baby Ruth pool, which hosted exhibitions by swimming champions. Kiefer pestered one recognizable figure in attendance Tex Robertson, captain of the University of Michigan swim team, until Tex finally agreed to coach him. That Thanksgiving, Adolph, then 16 years old, hitchhiked to Michigan where Robertson coached him. “Who’s that kid in the pool?” asked Michigan’s legendary coach, Matt Mann. Robertson replied, “Kiefer, I’m helping him.” Taking out his watch, Mann said, “Let’s see that kid swim a hundred”. Kiefer swam it. Mann looked at his watch and said — “I don’t believe this … do it again!” Kiefer did. Dumbfounded Mann replied, “You just broke the world record — twice!”A few months later, while swimming in the Illinois High School Championship meet. Kiefer made it official, becoming the first in history to break one minute mark in the 100 yds backstroke.