Passages: George Wendt, Chicago Masters Swim Club President, Dies During Big Shoulders Open Water Swim


George Wendt, a local swimming icon in Chicago, died at 73 on Saturday after suffering a heart attack during the a Big Shoulders Open Water Swim Classic in Lake Michigan, according to race officials.

Wendt, not to be confused with the “Cheers” actor, was a champion U.S. Masters Swimmer and president of the Chicago Masters Swim Club.

“I write this with an incredibly heavy heart. For those who haven’t heard, today we lost George Wendt, a good friend, a role model, a swimming icon, and someone I will miss dearly. George was one of the best people I had the pleasure to call friend.  Always positive with a smile, George was the guy who made going to the pool at 5:15 seem like a privilege, rather than a chore.  He died doing something he loved, open water swimming.  We will have more in the days ahead, but in the meantime, please send any photos you had of George from the race, or from the race in general, to post,” race officials posted on the event’s site.

Wendt reportedly never missed a Big Shoulders race.

“The swimming community lost a great man yesterday. George Wendt held many individual lifetime records and was a tireless proponent of the sport. More importantly, he was a very kind and good man with a multitude of friends. Every day, George walked into the Natatorium with a smile on his face and a friendly greeting. He loved the facility and frequently commented on how much he enjoyed swimming with the Masters group here. The entire FMC family mourns his loss. We send our love and prayers to the Wendt family,” wrote the FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park in greater Chicago.

The Big Shoulders Open Water Swim Classic is a 5K race in Lake Michigan, starting from the Ohio Street Beach in Chicago. There is also a 2.5K race.

This year’s race was won by former Wisconsin swimmer Tyler Hines in 1 hours, 8 minutes and 45 seconds. The women’s race was won by former Illinois State swimmer Danielle Schumacher in 1:09:11.00.


Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Brian Dobry
Brian Dobry
2 years ago

George Wendt was on of the finest teachers on a Fenwick High School faculty of fine teachers. Always prepared, always professional.

“What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty”! – Hamlet

RIP Mr. Wendt

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x