KENT, Washington, April 22. MARK Prothero, a longtime fixture in the Pacific Northwest swimming community as an athlete, coach and meet announcer, passed away Saturday at 57 years old after a battle with lung cancer.
Prothero, who was not a smoker, had survived a previous bout of lung cancer many years ago, according to an obituary in the Seattle Times. Though well-known to those in local and regional swimming circles, his national claim to fame was representing Gary Ridgway in a 2003 trial in which Ridgway confessed to killing 48 people in the Seattle area. Prothero was among a team of lawyers who helped reduce Ridgway’s sentence from being put to death to serving a life sentence without parole.
Prothero wrote a book about his time serving as defense attorney for Ridgway, titled Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River Killer. At the time of his death, Ridgway was a partner at Hanis Irvine Prothero in Kent, where he continued to work as a part of Ridgway’s legal team.
Prothero had a great swimming career, starting with multiple state titles as an athlete at Renton High School. He followed that up with All-America status at the University of Washington and several years on the national swimming team. His xxth-place performance in the 400 IM at the 1976 summer nationals was good enough for 15th place in the world rankings that year, according to information published in the January 1977 issue of Swimming World Magazine.
After his swimming career ended, Prothero stayed active in the sport, serving as head coach for the Kentwood High School from 1997 to 2003. He was also a major contributor to the Husky Swim Foundation, which works to boost swimming participation in the Pacific Northwest.
Most recently, his voice could be heard as the meet announcer at local and sectional competitions at the Weyerhauser King County Aquatic Center, as well as at meets outside of Washington state.
Sam Kendricks worked with Prothero on numerous occasions as a meet announcer, and remembers his generous spirit.
“Mark was a great ambassador for the sport of swimming,” Kendrick said. “Swimming provided a cornerstone and continuous theme in his life from which he touched countless lives in truly meaningful ways. From his early years as a standout club and collegiate swimmer, through many years of coaching as well as being a devoted swim parent his entire life was testimony of how swimming is truly a lifetime sport. He always found a way to transfer his warm smile and upbeat attitude to all of those around him. He will be greatly missed.”
Prothero is survived by his wife, Kelly; son, Sean; daughter, Marley; mother, Shirley Prothero; and brother, Blake Emery. Sean is the swim coach at Kennedy High School, while Marley was an Olympic Trials qualifier and coaches at the Kent Tennis & Swim Club.