By Robert Watson
NEW YORK, August 27. CHELSEA Piers Masters swimmer Jeffrey Wortman of New York suffered and subsequently died from a massive heart attack on Saturday, August 23, while competing in the Great Hudson River Swim. While there were courageous and unrelenting attempts at reviving him, his heartbeat could not be restored.
In the last few years, through hard work and inexorable determination, Jeffrey rapidly and meticulously transitioned his swimming from a means of rehabilitation from a prior heart attack to a mode of successful competition, quickly becoming a known force on the national swimming scene. Just one week before the Hudson River Swim, Jeffrey placed third in 100-meter breaststroke, 4th in 200-meter breaststroke, and 8th in the 50-meter freestyle at the Masters Nationals Long Course Championships in the 55-59 age group category, establishing best times in each of the events with an incredible near-five-second drop in the 200 breast.
An unassuming soul, Jeffrey was selfless and a gentleman. While his swimming achievements drew attention, it was his kindness, generosity and commitment to community that made him an exceptional human being. A 1967 graduate of Dartmouth College, Jeffrey was passionate about saving his alma mater's recently threatened swimming program, a result of college-wide budget reductions.
Jeffrey was also a committed volunteer at events sponsored by NYC2012, and at swim races sponsored by the Manhattan Island Foundation (MIF). According to MIF's founder, Morty Berger, "Jeff was the selfless
volunteer writing your number on your arm, handing out food and transporting your bag from start to finish. He was always courteous, and quietly enjoyed helping swimmers make the most of their experience".
Jeffrey could always be relied on for a ride to masters swimming meets. Even during this summer's blackout, Jeffrey drove a car full of swimmers through the chaotic streets of New York to the Masters Nationals at Rutgers University. When the subways were down and the stoplights were dark, Jeffrey insisted on driving every person to their doorstep and picking them up the next day.
Jeffrey would probably turn red from reading this. He would much rather discuss, one on one, perhaps over a beer, about how to get people on his team and in New York City more involved in competitive swimming.
Jeffrey loved swimming and, as an optimist remarked, died doing what he loved. For many, however, Jeffrey, our dear, inspirational friend, was taken away from us way before his time.
Chelsea Piers, the swimming community, and the world have lost a good and gentle soul.
He will be sorely missed.