Solo Swims of Ontario Inc.

Hall of Fame

A Cliff Lumsdon Awardee (1998) and SSO Founder

Joan Lumsdon devoted her life to swimming instruction and coaching. She was a founding director of Solo Swims of Ontario. Joan began her swimming career at the Lakeshore Swim Club, coached by the legendary Gus Ryder. There she trained with Cliff Lumsdon and Marilyn Bell. When Joan got word that Marilyn was trying her famous swim across Lake Ontario, Joan rushed out of work to help her. Joan's tireless swimming by Marilyn's side was an important factor in Marilyn's success. Joan and Marilyn remained the best of friends and when Joan died in January 2000, after an extended fight against cancer, Marilyn sent a particularly heart-felt letter that was read at Joan's memorial service. . .

"Joan was my dearest friend. She was and will always be one of my life's most precious treasures. For over fifty years our friendship withstood the passage of time and the many miles that separated us. It seems like only yesterday, but the year was 1955 when Joan, Cliff and I stood on the grass in what is now Marilyn Bell Park and promised each other that no matter what happened in life we would always be friends. And so began our 'friendship without guilt'."

Joan continued to teach swimming at the Lakeshore Swim Club to both able-bodied and disabled youngsters. She befriended Cliff and they eventually married. Joan was in the boat on many of his swims, also being a major motivating factor in his success. During his famous Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) 19 hour, 32 mile race in 48F water, the key to his victory was the fact that she repeatedly roused him out of his hypothermic stupor.

Joan expanded her coaching to help Cliff with Diana Nyad in her historic first north to south crossing of Lake Ontario. Both Joan and Cliff coached 15-year-old Jocelyn Muir to her astonishing 15 hour 55 minutes swim across Lake Ontario. Joycelyn remains the youngest swimmer to have ever completed the Lake. Joan also coached her daughter Kim and Patti Thompson on the Professional Long Distance circuit.

Joan attended the first meeting of Solo Swims of Ontario in 1975. She remained involved, even when the Board of Directors dropped to three people in 1979. Joan, Cliff and Jack Ramsden were the only members of Solo Swims from 1979-1988. As Secretary-Treasurer, Joan can be credited with keeping the organization alive during some of its toughest years. She corresponded with swimmers and the Ministry, coached and managed the swimmers if necessary, was involved in sanctioning the swims and was present on almost all of the swims in that decade in one capacity or another. In fact, she often wore more than one hat on a swim, for example, inflatable boat driver, meteorologist, navigator, Swim Master, coach and chief cheerleader. The most important thing about her presence on a swim was her ability to motivate the swimmer. At the end of 15, 18 or even 21-hour ordeals, she had the energy to cheer enthusiastically, loudly and nonstop. Swimmers had no choice but to finish their swims when she was there! When you talk to them, it is obvious they are very grateful to her for her commitment to getting them to the other shore.

For thirty years, up to 1998, Joan was head of swimming at Branksome Hall School, Toronto. She also coached their swim team and synchronized swim team. From 1988 until her battle with cancer took over her life, she continued with Solo swims in the capacity of Swim Master, including motivating Vicki Keith in her historic double crossing of Lake Ontario. Up to her end, she continued to inspire her grandchildren in their swimming careers.

At the Cliff Lumsdon award ceremony for her in 1998, it was noted that "The Cliff Lumsdon award is a much deserved token of recognition and thank you from swimmers who have been taught, coached or inspired by her enthusiasm."

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Created: 5th June 2000
Last Updated: 20th March 2003