Timothy R. Garton
Here are several remembrances of Tim Garton, who died on April 25, 2016.
- Obituary, Sheboygan (WI) Press
- Article, Swimming World
- Citation by the International Swimming Hall of Fame
May 3, 2016
Tim Garton passed away early Monday morning, April 25, 2016, succumbing to MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) with his beloved wife and best friend Mara by his side in Kansas City, MO. He was 73.
As a husband, father, swimmer, outdoorsman, entrepreneur, and scholar, Tim was known for his larger-than-life persona, his boundless love for family and friends, his determined, unflappable spirit, and his dedication and willpower to overcome any obstacle that dared face him.
In his 73 years, Tim lived a robust, fruitful, and accomplished life, all the while establishing himself as one of the most talented swimmers to have ever lived.
Born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1942, Tim was the second of six Garton siblings — three brothers and two sisters. Tim’s lively childhood home included brotherly boxing matches and general sibling tomfoolery, which often elicited a stern, yet pacifying “ACHTUNG!” from their mother, awakening her German heritage. Whether Tim knew it at the time, this energetic family environment would be the impetus to a long, successful career as a swimmer.
Tim wasted no time becoming acquainted with the water, learning to swim at only two and a half years old. For Tim, his early swim career was less about records and more about survival. To combat the fraternal hazing doled out by his older brother holding his head underwater, Tim sought refuge in his mother. She answered her son’s plea with a simple message: toughen up or learn how to out swim your brother. This ultimatum precipitated Tim’s first workout routine.
As the final bell of each school year rang, Tim and the entire Garton clan left Sheboygan to spend summers at Wisconsin’s quaint resort village, Elkhart Lake. Each morning, just as the Wisconsin sun spilled over the horizon, Tim was in the lake counting the number of strokes as prescribed by his mother, who rowed alongside Tim, marking his pace. From these humble beginnings of racing his siblings across muddy, Wisconsin rivers rose one of the most dominant swimmers in the history of the sport. Soon climbing the ranks of his local AAU organization, Tim’s natural feel for the water made him a raw, yet burgeoning talent.
Tim would refine his skills and training regimen with his matriculation into the swimming and academic powerhouse of Yale University in 1960. In his four years swimming for Yale’s elite team, Tim accrued several All-American honors, while competing alongside the most talented athletes the sport had to offer. Despite his collegiate successes, Tim narrowly missed a spot on the 1964 Olympic Team — a great disappointment for him. However, his foray into the world of competitive swimming had just begun.
Upon graduating from Yale in 1964, Tim earned his masters degree in engineering from the University of Wisconsin. Tim’s exceptional intelligence and worldly curiosity led to immediate research positions at Bell Aerosystems, where he analyzed and improved the physics of lunar-module landings, among other endeavors. An extremely capable engineer, Tim saw his professional life parallel his athletic life. Much of Tim’s love for swimming was founded on his inherent sense of personal responsibility and self-determinism — values intrinsic to true champions of individual sports. Similarly, Tim sought individualism and freedom in his professional life. After a Schlitz-“Go for the Gusto!”-inspired epiphany while fishing in Wisconsin, Tim decided to relocate to Vail, Colorado.
Upon reaching Vail, and each day to follow during his fifty years in Vail Valley, Tim was awestruck by the majestic terrain, the pristine waters, the abundant and diverse wildlife, and of course, the snow: expanses of heavenly powder — a pipe-dream for New England and the upper Midwest skiers. Tim began work as a ski instructor, further deepening his love for Colorado’s beauty. Not long after, Tim launched what would become a successful career as a real-estate developer. In stark contrast to the town’s current reputation as a bustling, resort destination, Vail at the time consisted of about 300 residents connected by one unpaved road. In Tim’s first ten years in Vail, the city’s population grew by 400%. Among his many ventures, Tim developed condos, duplexes, and townhouses in East Vail, as well as the Vail Intermountain properties, where Tim constructed Vail’s first pool accommodating competitive swim training year-round. In the 1990s, Tim created the Terrace Community in Eagle, CO. Following its success, he developed the Cotton Ranch in Gypsum, CO — a 415-acre mountain community showcasing a breathtaking Pete Dye Signature golf course and, of course, Vail Valley’s best 25-meter swimming pool. Tim’s influence was hardly limited to real estate, as he also served as the chair of Vail’s Board of Recreation and the Cotton Ranch Metropolitan District.
Despite an active, newfound real-estate career, Tim’s passion for swimming never ceased. In 1972, Tim stumbled upon the results of the Masters National Swimming Championships. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Tim decided to train for the 1973 National Championships. It was at this competition that Tim broke his first national record. He would go on to shatter and set 144 United States Masters Swimming records in his career.
As Tim’s aquatic renaissance flourished, his race times improved with age. In a post-race interview, Tim wryly ribbed his competition: “Some people age like fine wine,” he said, “others like a ripe banana.” By the time he reached his 40s, Tim was faster than most NCAA college swimmers.
In 1986, Tim competed in the first World Masters Championships in Tokyo, Japan, and over the next seven championships won 36 gold medals. Competing in the 40-44 age group, Tim amassed 20 gold medals and no less than six titles at each World Championship in 9 events — 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m freestyle, 50m, 100m butterfly, 50m breaststroke, and 200m and 400m IM. His versatility overwhelmed the competition, and in the process, Tim broke a staggering 39 world records.
In 1991, Tim was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While facing adversity that would cause most men to break, Tim continued to break records. During chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he maintained his training. When his cancer was declared in remission, doctors credited his devotion to swimming as being largely responsible. When Tim started competing again at the World Championships later that year, his performance was astonishing. Tim won his 100th national and international victory by winning the 100m freestyle. His superhuman return from cancer patient to world champion earned him a standing ovation from his peers and spectators at the World Championship meet. Tim’s teammate and friend, Olympic Gold medalist Steve Clark, encapsulated Tim’s spirit with a baseball metaphor: “After rounding the bases at full speed, he slid into home plate full of dirt and grime collected from having played the game to the very utmost.”
Though his love for swimming was undeniable, Tim would soon meet the true love of his life — Mara. Tim and Mara’s ebullient love for one another ignited nearly instantaneously. Mara, perhaps not so coincidentally, was a Masters swimmer herself, and practiced at the same pool as Tim. However, their practices never seemed to overlap. Mara swam at 6am, while Tim swam at noon. While dropping off her daughter at the aquatic center for practice one day, Mara and Tim finally met. A smitten Mara nearly fainted, but instead settled slowly down to the pool deck only to be joined by Tim as she regained her composure. From then on, Mara started swimming at noon.
Tim married Mara in August of 1994 only a stone’s throw from the lake where he learned to swim. Tim — already the proud father of 3 beautiful daughters, each possessing Tim’s innate charisma — welcomed Mara’s two daughters into the fold. Tim, Mara, and their 5 daughters formed a large, vibrant, and loving family. Mara and Tim’s energetic passion for one another would never wane. By all accounts they were lovers and also best friends. From the day they were married, Tim and Mara were inseparable, partaking in exciting adventures all over the world, including spending considerable time together on their yacht M/Y Cotton Ranch in the tropical, cerulean ocean. The two would soon be headed to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. There, in 1997, Tim became one of the first Masters swimmers ever to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, solidifying his status among the all-time greats.
Those close to Tim knew that he was as impressive out of the water as he was in. He was handsome, brilliant, and charming. Tim’s strong handshake, booming voice — unmistakably Wisconsin — and confident demeanor made him the life of many a social event. As intelligent as he was charming, his unmatched intellect paired nicely with a rum and Diet Coke. There was always an abundance of listeners when Tim spoke. Whether he detailed the heroic tales of fighting off sharks by hand, month-long hunting safaris on the African plains, SCUBA diving with his siblings, racing the world’s elite swimmers, or fondly recounting his adventures with Mara, Tim commanded an audience. With the fearless poise of an athlete, Tim’s intensity for competition however never paled to his passion for those around him.
Tim is survived by his wife Mara, his daughters Shannon, Bentley, Madison, Aspen, and Lara, his four grandchildren, his brothers Dave, Michael, and Dan, sisters Kate and Diane, as well as a world forever enriched by Tim’s indomitable spirit. Tim unabashedly burned the candle at both ends, and in doing so, created a very lovely light. Tim’s influence will forever echo in our hearts, like the steady rhythm of his carefully placed hands disrupting the glassy morning waters of Elkhart Lake, stroke after stroke after stroke.
Memorial services for Tim will be held on June 12, 2016 at Elkhart Lake, WI. In place of flowers, Tim has requested that donations be sent to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
ISHOF Hall of Famer Tim Garton Passes Away
April 26, 2016
TIM GARTON passed away early Monday morning (4/25/2016) at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, KS, with his wife Mara at his side. He was 73 years old. Tim courageously battled cancer the last 25 years of his life and was one of the most dominant swimmers in the history of Masters Swimming. In 1997, Tim, along with Gail Roper, were the first two Masters Swimmers to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Tim learned to swim at age two and a half in Elkhart, Wisconsin and joined an AAU program in high school, but his first opportunity to train in a serious program was when he attended Yale University from 1960 to 1964. Yale workouts were approximately 2,000 yards in distance and represented a 500% increase over his minimal high-school program. While his times improved greatly at Yale, and he twice earned All-American status on relays, he failed in his dream to make the 1964 Olympic team.
In 1972, working as a real-estate developer in Vail, Colorado, Tim read about the results of the Masters National Championships and decided to train for the 1973 championships in the 25-29 age group. He was the surprise newcomer, winning three events and setting the first of hundreds of national and world records as he aged up.
In 1991, Tim was diagnosed with lymphoma, considered an incurable cancerous disease of the lymph system. During chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he continued to train at reduced levels. When his cancer was declared in remission in August 1991, some of the doctors credited his devotion to swimming as being largely responsible. In 1992, he started competing again and, in the FINA World Masters Championships in Indianapolis, he won his 100th national and international victory by winning the 100-meter freestyle.
“The Fox lived his life fully,” says Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist Steve Clark. “He was one of my best friends for the last 55 years, and on a regular basis kicked my ass in Masters swimming through every age group we entered….At Yale, he took me under his wing and taught me the virtues of wine, women and song…If ever there was a man whose life can be described by a baseball metaphor, he was that man: after rounding the bases at full speed, at the end he slid into home plate full of dirt and grime collected from having played the game to the very upmost. He will be missed.”
“We’ve lost one of the fastest post-college swimmers ever,” says the legendary Olympic and Masters Swimming Hall of Famer Jeff Farrell. “Tim could never catch Steve at Yale but clobbered him constantly years later, with many national and world-record swims. He was a special person to watch and to be with. Steve’s description was an admiring — and accurate — memory of a special guy.”
“He loved swimming,” says Yale alumnus Greg Lawler. “He loved his family, loved his friends, and loved his stories, most of them involving swimming. He was particularly proud of one — about swimming against his best friend Steve Clark. Steve had set the world record in the 100 free at the Tokyo Olympics, but at a masters meet in Japan years later, with both swimming absurdly fast for not young people, Tim beat Steve in a 100 race. When a reporter asked how he had beaten Steve, he answered: 'Some people age like fine wine, others like a ripe banana.' Tim was very proud of that insult, proof of his affection for Steve.”
“Tim always seemed a bit larger than life,” says Masters Swimming Hall of Fame Contributor Phil Whitten, ”a Rabelaisian figure who always had time for friends and was happy to help out the sport he loved. Never bound by conventional expectations, he had no intention of quitting swimming when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma 25 years ago and told he’d never be able to compete at the elite Masters level again. Tim never bought that prognosis and in short order was winning gold in the Masters World Championships.”
Tim was passionate about his love for swimming and he will be missed.
Citation for Tim Garton when inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame
FOR THE RECORD, MASTERS SWIMMING:
- WORLD RECORDS (21: freestyle, butterfly, individual medley)
- USMS RECORDS: (52: freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, individual medley)
- 1984 MASTERS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (50m, 100m, 200m freestyle, 50m, 100m butterfly, 200m, 400m IM, 50m breaststroke)
- 1985 MASTERS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (50m, 100m, 200m, 400m freestyle, 200m, 400m IM)
- 1986 MASTERS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m, 200m, 400m freestyle, 200m, 400m IM, 100m butterfly)
- 1988 MASTERS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m, 200m, 400m freestyle, 200m, 400m IM, 100m butterfly)
- 1990 MASTERS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m, 200m, 400m freestyle, 200m, 400m IM, 100m butterfly)
- 1992 MASTERS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m freestyle), silver (400m freestyle, 200m IM), bronze (400m IM)
- 1994 MASTERS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m, 200m freestyle, 200m, 400m IM), silver (400m freestyle)
- 40-44 Age Group: 5 WORLD RECORDS
- 45-49 Age Group: 9 WORLD RECORDS, 16 NATIONAL RECORDS
- 50-54 Age Group: 7 WORLD RECORDS, 13 NATIONAL RECORDS
- 30-34 Age Group: 6 NATIONAL RECORDS
- 35-39 Age Group: 5 NATIONAL RECORDS
- US MASTERS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (85): 63 short course (100yd butterfly, 200yd breaststroke, 50yd, 100yd, 200yd, 500yd freestyle, 100yd, 200yd, 400yd IM), 26 long course (100m butterfly, 50m, 100m 200m freestyle, 200m, 400m IM)
Few male swimmers have been as dominant as Tim Garton in Masters Swimming from both the beginning of the program and the beginning of the first age group, 25-29. Over Tim’s 25 years of competing in Masters Swimming, he has accumulated over 39 world age-group records and 144 national records, all in the toughest age group categories.
After all, swimming was a big part of his family. He learned to swim at age two and one-half in Elkhart, Wisconsin. But, after that age, his older and bigger brother began holding him underwater. Tim didn’t receive any sympathy from his mother, and she informed him he would either have to get tougher or learn to swim better. So, she woke him every morning at 7:00am to train until he got as strong as his brother. Although he succeeded in a few months, the workout routine lasted a lifetime.
He swam in the AAU Wisconsin age-group program and in high school, but his first big opportunity to swim in a serious program came when he attended Yale University from 1960 to 1964. Yale workouts were approximately 2000 yards in distance and represented a 500% increase over his minimal high-school program. He faced daily workouts with 1964 Olympians Steve Clark and others, resulting in faster times in all events. He was twice elected to the NCAA All American team, based on relay performances. He failed to make the 1964 US Olympic team after graduation, but the pent-up frustrations of not having achieved his swimming goals may have given Tim the motivation to prove himself in the Masters Swimming program once it started in the early 1970s.
Garton moved to Vail, Colorado in 1967, and has lived there ever since. In 1972, he read about the results of the Masters National Championships, and he and his close friend Chuck Ogilby of Indiana University decided to train for the 1973 championships. He was the surprise newcomer, winning the 200m IM and 200m and 100m freestyles, setting a national record in the 100m, the first of 144 national records through 1996. The older he got, the faster his times became. By his late 30s and early 40s, his times compared favorably with some of his college efforts.
In 1984, Tim hired Mark Schubert’s assistant coach at Mission Viejo, Al Dorsett, to work closely with him to help develop a Masters program and build a better swimming facility in Vail. All three endeavors succeeded.
Tim competed in the first International and World Masters Championships and throughout the past seven championships has won 36 gold, three silver, and one bronze. Twenty gold medals were earned in the 40-44 age group, and he won no less than six titles at each championship in 9 events — 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m freestyle, 50m, 100m butterfly, 50m breaststroke, and 200m, 400m IM. His versatility is overwhelming, and he has set 39 world records in the freestyle, butterfly, and individual medley, to the present.
He has attended over 24 US National Championship Masters meets winning 94 first places, setting 30 national records. Tim holds 144 total national records.
In 1991, Tim was diagnosed with lymphoma, considered an incurable cancerous disease of the lymph system. During chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he continued to train at reduced levels. When his cancer was declared in remission, in August of 1991, some of the doctors credited his devotion to swimming as being largely responsible. In 1992, he started competing again, and in the World Championships in Indianapolis, he won his 100th national and international victory by winning the 100m freestyle. Tim has been a member of the United States Masters Swimming All-American team every year from 1979 to 1996. He was the first man in the 50-54 age group to lower the USMS national record for the 100yd IM to under one minute, a time many of the 25-29 swimmers wish they could match.