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Obituary Archive

Remembering Kelley Lemmon, Jr.

War Hero and Senior Swimming Superstar was 99.

Kelly Lemmon, Jr. passed away peacefully at his son's home in Gaithersburg, MD on February 11, 2012, in his 100th year. Kelley was born on May 14, 1912 at Fort McKinley, Maine. Kelley learned to swim in Hawaii and later swam while attending high school in four different states: Delaware, Michigan, Virginia and California. He was a member of the swim team at the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1937.


For the next four decades, he rarely swam while his Army career took him around the world, from Europe and the Philippines to Texas, Massachusetts and Alaska. In 1944, he received a Distinguished Service Cross from LTG George S. Patton for extraordinary heroism. Attacking across the Seine River, he discovered the bridge across the river had been destroyed. Rather than order one of his men to cross the 350-yard wide river under intense enemy small arms fire, he swam the river, secured five civilian boats, tied them together, paddled them back to shore, and used them to establish a bridgehead.      He retired in the early 1970s as a Major General in the Army. In 1979, he began lifting weights and discovered he enjoyed an occasional dip in the pool. He saw John J. Flanagan swimming butterfly and asked him to teach him how to do it. Coach Flanagan encouraged him to join the masters program and he soon competed in his first meet - the 1980 short course nationals in Ft. Lauderdale.

The nomination form submitted to ISHOF for his induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1999 listed 128 world records, 49 national records and 65 USMS National Championships. He also helped DC Masters win 7 National team titles. In three nationals -- 1982 short course, 1982 long course and 1983 long course -- he completed "clean sweeps," winning six events and exceeding records in all six. A 1983 issue of the "Wavemaker," the DC Masters newsletter, reported that at long course nationals he "climaxed his career with eight gold medals, six individual and 2 relays, thus bettering Mark Spitz' record of seven gold medals."  He was also inducted into the inaugural class of the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF), when that institution was created in 2003.


Kelley’s life story was and will continue to be an inspiration for swimmers of all ages at the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

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