CARBONDALE, Ill., September 3. DR. EDWARD J. Shea, beloved Illinois Masters swimmer, left this life Sunday, August 31st at the age of 88. Appropriately enough, his last swimming competition was July 27th in his namesake pool, the Dr. Edward J. Shea Natatorium, on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois.
He proudly commented that he swam his 50 meter backstroke faster in his pool than he had three weeks earlier at the Indy Firecracker meet at IUPUI. Three weeks after the competition in Carbondale, he struggled with acute congestive heart failure and succumbed after a two-week hospitalization.
Remarkably after a heart attack, coronary artery bypass surgery, pacemaker placement and aortic aneurysm repair in 1998, Ed recovered well enough by 2000 to set USMS national records in all nine of the backstroke events for the 85-89 age group. He still holds two of these records in the 50 and 200 yard
backstroke. At the state level, 14 of Ed’s Central LMSC backstroke records, spanning four age groups (70-74 to 85-89) still stand. The oldest of these records was set in 1985.
During his illustrious Masters swimming career, Ed Shea set 29 FINA world records and 32 USMS, YMCA and Senior Olympic national records. He won nine world titles and competed on five different continents. Ed was named a USMS All-Star in 1995. He has been continuously listed in the USMS Top Ten, with the exception of 1998 when he had his heart attack. Ed has also been a USMS All American steadily for 18 years with the exception of 1989, 1998 and 2002. It appears that his LCM times this summer will earn him yet another All American listing for 2003. Through all these accomplishments, his devoted wife, Ruth, has been in the stands cheering for him.
Dr Shea was an emeritus professor and former chairman of the Department of Physical Education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He served in
administrative, teaching, coaching and consultative positions at Emory University, Atlanta; Phillips Academy, Andover; and the U.S. Military Academy
at West Point. He authored five books and numerous professional articles.
Dr. Shea earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Springfield College, where he captained his swimming team to the New England Intercollegiate Championship. In 1982 he was inducted into the Springfield College Athletics Hall of Fame. He earned his Masters of Science degree from Emory University and his Ph.D. from New York University. In May of 2003 he was inducted into his high school Hall of Fame at Lynn Classical High School. Dr. Shea has received numerous
professional accolades, but the September 2001 dedication of the SIUC Student Recreation Center swimming pool in his name was one of the most memorable.
Dr Shea will be remembered fondly by his fellow swimmers, students and colleagues for his wry wit and friendly manner. Mel Goldstein may have said it best:
“How sad, no wonder it has been raining so hard. God has been shedding many tears for Ed. I will miss him.”
- Mary Pohlmann