Ed Thomas (1921-1991)
Remembering a True Champion

by Ray Dilling, Bob Hayward Y, London, Ontario, Canada.

Born on 11th February 1921, Ed(win) Thomas was a nationally-known and well-loved London Masters swimmer who died in 1991 at age 70. In its early days, Ed supported the 5 km St Marys swim by soliciting numerous prizes and awards from his business clients in south-western Ontario. While he regularly swim the 1,500 m in competition, ironically, he never swam in the 5 km race. In 1991, in Ed's memory, UWO Aquatic Masters purchased trophies for the Oldest Woman and Oldest Man completing the 5 km St Marys swim. Ed was a long-time member of the Bob Hayward Y in London, Ontario and after his death the Branch Director, Ray Dilling, compiled the following tribute which appeared in Inside The London Y, Volume 1, Edition 4, August 1991.

Everyone at the Bob Hayward Y and many others in London were extremely saddened at the recent death of Ed Thomas, a champion swimmer and distinguished Y member of 56 years. Originally from Toronto, Ed first joined the Broadview Y in 1935. He moved to London in 1963, making an outstanding contribution to the Y here by way of effort and example.

A gifted and dedicated athlete who continued to train right up to the time of his death, Ed was best known for extraordinary feats in swimming. His career as a swimmer began in 1936 when he tried out for the Canadian Olympic swimming team. Later he went on to become part of the 1937-'38 Dominion Water Polo Championship Team.

In 1942, Ed joined the Canadian army and served for three years with the Canadian Corp of Royal Engineers. Moving to London, he pursued his business career as Branch Manager of Dover Elevator company. In 1979, in partnership with Bill Rogan, Ed was instrumental in the growth and success of the Skyline Elevator Company up to his retirement in 1987.

Ed's accomplishments in the pool over the years are almost too many to mention, and he most certainly won more awards than are recorded here. Indeed, it seemed Ed got better with age, and rarely would a day go by without him in the pool or training at the Y.

When most people his age were winding down, Ed was tireless in his pursuit of enhancing his personal level of fitness to augment his already impressive list of swimming achievements. In 1985, in the Canadian Masters Swimming Age-group 60-64, Ed set a record in the 400 m Free (Long Course - 50 m pool) with a time of 6:52:45 at Etobicoke. In 1988, Ed set another Canadian Masters record with a time of 4:18:00 in the 65-69 Age-group in the 200 m IM (Long Course 50 m pool), also at Etobicoke.

In Canadian Masters Medley Relay (Short Course - 25 m pool) Ed helped his team to shine with a record of 2:16:98 set at Etobicoke in May, '87 in the (team) 200 Age-group. Ed swam freestyle for that one while teammates Don Hambley, Bryan Finlay and Dick Weick swam in set styles.

During Ed's last season of competition in 1988-'89, he scored more points (100) than anyone else in his 65-69 age-group. He assembled these points with Top-20 placings in 11 events, and when the high points were compared for all age-groups, Ed ranked as the number 7 Masters swimmer in the country!

Ed's many accomplishments did not go unnoticed. In over a decade he received numerous sports awards from the City of London and the Y (at least 9 City awards). Also in his final competitive swimming season Ed garnered the Canadian Championship in his age-group for the 400 m Free, 100 and 200 m Backstroke.

Ed was very serious about his training schedule in the pool. His workouts usually involved a mile long swim followed by a rapid fire series of short swim sprints, other endurance work, and a dry land regimen including weight training. On his "off days" Ed would invariably be spotted enjoying a successful round of golf at Sunningdale, a game of raquetball at the Y, or honing his well recognized prowess in horseshoes at the London Horseshoe Club. In spite of this tenacity and the intensity with which he competed, Ed always had time to chat, a joke and a pat on the back. He encouraged younger swimmers and athletes and took the time to help them with their programs and routines. His commitment to the community was witnessed by his enormous dedication of volunteer time and talents. He served many youth organizations including the London Minor Hockey association. At the Bob Hayward Y, his enthusiasm and his sense of humour were legend. Even well into his sixties Ed had immense vitality and a tremendous love of life.

In honour of Ed's accomplishments, and at his family's request, the Bob Hayward Y has set up a Memorial Fund in Ed's name. In addition, the University of Western Ontario Masters Swim Club is commemorating a trophy in Ed's name, awarded to the oldest competitor completing the Master's Swimming Ontario 5 km swim course (held at St Mary's quarry).

We at the Bob Hayward Y would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the Thomas family for their loss. Everyone was better for knowing Ed Thomas and he will be greatly missed.

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Created: 2nd October 1999
Last Updated: 19th March 2003