Obituary “Crazy” Pete DiCroce
FORT LAUDERDALE- On August 15, Masters diver and International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame Inductee, “Crazy” Pete DiCroce passed away at the Miami VA. He was 76. Pete’s longtime coach and friend, Tim O’Brien, was by his side.
The International Swimming Hall of Fame is full of the legends of aquatic sports, but few can match the adventurous life that Crazy Pete led. Pete’s room at the Miami VA was full of cards from the many people he had touched and he, in turn, was surprised and moved by the love he felt from so many. He taught us that true happiness cannot be found in a lot of money, a fancy house or an expensive car but rather in your own personal values and journey and in staying true to your own self. He taught us to respect our bodies and to not pollute them. He was a loyal friend and a solid man. His loss hits us particularly hard because he not only trained platform next door with the Fort Lauderdale Diving Team, but wasa part of our daily lives as a nearby resident of Fort Lauderdale and as a regular visitor to the Hall of Fame. He will be missed.
Anyone who came into contact with Pete, was immediately drawn to his energetic personality, baby blue eyes and love of life. He lived a unique and passionate life that was true to his values and to his own desire to do it his way and to be free from the confines of everyday society. For many years, Pete lived on his 65’ schooner on the New River in Sailboat Bend while continuing his diving career. The last ten years or so were spent taking care of his mother, Theresa, prior to her passing away at the age of 96. Pete’s life was one that was so full of experiences, adventures and great relationships.
Pete DiCroce left an indelible mark on masters diving, the Hall of Fame, and on those who loved him. His 2011 induction to the Masters Hall of Fame was something that he talked about regularly and was a source of great pride for him.
His final months were spent like most others; with a smile on his face. The loss of Crazy Pete will be with us for a very long time as there are few that can match his enthusiasm and love for life. His example and life lessons will continue and remain in our hearts forever. He was simply one of a kind. We love you Crazy.
A memorial service will be held in December at Pete’s home and all are invited to come celebrate Pete’s life, eat and tell some stories. A date and more details will be forthcoming.
We invite all to attend to celebrate Pete’s amazing life.
You are my Champion, Pete.
August 19, 2014
Pete in his own words: “I remember when I was called “Petaboy” maybe four or five years young, Aunt Rosie taking me to Rockway beach 19th street Long Island in the summer time. She showed me how to “doggie paddle” and kick my feet. She would sit up on the beach and watch me ever so closely as I would paddle, touching my hands to the bottom in the sand, pulling myself along. When a wave would come I’d ride up with it trying not to touch the bottom. Around six years young, one day I went running down the long dock to see Uncle Joe’s row boat and crab and eel catch. Aunt Rosie yelled (Joe watch for Petie he can’t swim!). Uncle Joe tied a rope around my waist, picked me up above his shoulders and threw me – I was flying, my first time in the air, looking down at the black deep waters of Jamaica bay. The next thing, I’m in a white cloud of bubbles under water. I start paddling and kicking up where the bubbles were going. Air! Sky! I turned and see Uncle Joe on the dock. I paddle and kick over, he pulls me up. Aunt Angie yells “Joe! Are you crazy?” Uncle Joe says as he takes the rope off me, “See I told you he could swim!”
I COULD swim? I did? I could swim! I was free! Now I could jump in the water any time I wanted, boy was I happy. In 1945 we moved to Paterson, New Jersey. In the summer the guys would go to the back race of the Great Passaic Falls. Off came all our clothes and in we’d go. It was from my tippy toes right up to my chinney chin, with my head raised back, deep. I would practice going across about ten yards to the other side where we could climb up and jump off the high rocks. I loved it there, till I found out about the Great Falls Chasim. When the 90 foot falls was slow, we’d fish down there and swim across to the high rocks, climb up and I’d go as high as high as I could and dive off. My buddies said I was “Crazy” but I loved it.
In 1950, I was twelve. I found out about the Paterson YMCA four blocks away. The gym, pool and diving board. I had a new home. I passed all the swimming tests from “minnow through junior life saving”. I became a junior leader and later a life guard and swimming instructor. All right there at the YMCA.
Once a year they would throw a lot of gold fish in the pool and had a contest to see how many you could catch by hand. The chlorine burned my eyes, I won two years in a row. In 1951, I made the Y swimming team. I swam the free and breast in races. The swim coach let me dive in the meets too. I didn’t know one dive from another, so I just said “I’ll do what he just did”. I won my first gold medal in 1953, age 14. One meter junior diving sectional championships, which qualified me for the central Atlantic area championships at Rutgers University, where I placed second by 9 tenths of a point. No coach! Just watching, following and copying. I took home to my mom a silver medal which she had them both engraved.
At 16, in the Paterson Y circus I was a star on trampoline and clowning around between acts. Also in 1956, I placed 6th at the national YMCA gymnastics championships on trampoline. In swimming, I won a bronze medal in the 60 yard free style and a gold medal as the fastest starter in the 200 yard free relay team. Breaking the Princeton University pool record for the Paterson Y intermediate team.
In 1958, at age 19 after graduating North Miami senior high school, I joined the US Navy. I was at the Lebanon crisis. Then in 1959, became a frog man member of UDT 21. I learned to blow things up. Then in 1960, I graduated the USN deep sea diving school in Washington DC. I learned to weld, search and recover things in the deep ocean. Also in 1960, I won a gold medal in the USN 3 meter spring board diving championships at the amphibious force Atlantic fleet pool Little Creek, Virginia.
Then in 1961 after returning from the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, the only frogman aboard the LST 1178 USS Wood county, I won the 3 meter diving at the Little Creek pool again. This is where I received my first beautiful trophy.
1963-1965, Miami Dade junior college swim team was great fun. “Still no diving coach”! But, I enjoyed local Florida gold coast AAU diving competitions and show diving in the Miami Beach hotels. That proved to be what I still loved to do at the age of 25. Show diving all summer at the steel pier in Atlantic City New Jersey in 1966 helped me to receive a Bachelor of Science in education from FSU in June 1967. Then later that year, at the world professional high diving competition at the CNE in Toronto, Canada I won 6th place doing one dive a day for six days starting at 60 feet with ten foot increments a day to reach my highest dive of 110 feet.
The 1970s and 80s brought what I had learned all together. Working part time as a commercial diver, show diver, spear fisherman and with a US coast guard captains license for 15 years, captaining and living on my own 65 foot two masted schooner in the Bahamas and Florida keys, living a fantastic life.
In 1990, still living on my boat in Ft Lauderdale Florida, a fellow high diving friend Larry Koch, took me to the Plantation pool and introduced me to masters diving. Being welcomed to the Plantation diving team by Coach Paul Breitfeller, I had my first “Diving Coach at age 52.” I was back in diving competition after 26 years. The next year 1991, I went to my first masters national championships where I placed 2nd on ten meter platform. Then in 1992, I won my first masters national championship platform gold medal. I actually got emotional, never believing I could achieve such a high goal in diving being a national champion. In 1994, at my first world masters games I won platform and am undefeated in world masters games platform diving through 2013, which is 20 years.”
Peter DiCroce 3/18/2012