Passages: ISHOF Service Award Winner Dale Petranech Passes at 84 From Pancreatic Cancer

Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

2014 International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee Dale Petranech passed away Friday morning from pancreatic cancer. He was 84-years-old.

Petranech was honored in May 2019 with the ISHOF Service Award, which is given to an individual who has selflessly volunteered their time, energy and/or resources to advance the interests and work of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Early Days

Petranech had been a fixture at the Hall of Fame for as far back as anyone can remember. Dale was always there to pitch in and lend a helping hand to whatever needed to be done. Whether it was getting up at 4:00 am to help Bob Duenkel set up for the Ocean Mile Swim, or make a last-minute run to the Miami International Airport to pick someone up, Dale always did it with a smile on his face. And he never said no.

Dale Petranech Specialty Award recipient

He first became involved in swimming on an administrative level in 1977. There, he was selected to be the Chairman of the first USA Swimming Open Water Committee. As Chairman, he developed successful domestic and international programs. In 1984, Petranech was instrumental in getting FINA President Bob Helmick to establish a commission to add Open Water Swimming to the FINA and Olympic programs. Open water swimming made its debut at the 1991 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Perth, Australia with the 25K.

After the death of Commander Gerald Forsberg in 1998, Dale assumed the role of Secretary General for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. Since then, he had been responsible for formulating the nomination ballots and for organizing the annual IMSHOF induction.

Dale Petranech’s Hall of Fame Induction

In 2014, the International Swimming Hall of Fame inducted Petranech as an honor open water contributor. The International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame also inducted Petranech as an Honor Administrator in 1995. His work has spanned everything from U.S. Masters Swimming and USA Swimming to FINA and the Marathon Swimming Association.

Dale Petranech served as Honorary Secretary of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame from 1998 to present. He became the first U.S. Swimming Open Water Swimming Committee Chairman in 1977 and assisted U.S. Masters Swimming to form its own independent organization. He served as chairman of the FINA Open Water Swimming Commission and made long-term recommendations to FINA for inclusion of Open Water Swimming into its full program. Petranech served as Honorary Secretary of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee 1992 – 1996. He also helped lay the groundwork to get marathon swimming into the Summer Olympics in 2008.

Petranech was able to provide the administrative background, expertise and efforts to maintain the records, rules, policies, procedures and protocols used at USA Swimming, local age-group and masters, and FINA levels. He served as Chairman of United States Swimming Long Distance Committee 1979 – 1991. Petranech also served as FINA Safety Delegate, Observer and Official from 1992 to present and served as Chairman of National Aquatic Coalition 1994 – 1996.

He was an accomplished open water swimmer is his own right. In 1985, he became the oldest person to swim the 21-mile Catalina Channel at the age of 50.

“Dale was kind, supportive, a great friend and volunteer to all of us at ISHOF. He was one of a kind and we will miss him dearly,”-ISHOF Chief Operations Office Laurie Marchwinski said.

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3 years ago

Dale has been a tireless contributor on so many levels. We have all been blessed to call him friend.
Sid Cassidy

3 years ago


Jennifer Parks
3 years ago

Sale was longtime friend of mine, and I got to know him when he first got involved in the late 1970s at the Aquatic Convention, and among the first to push Open Water Swimming. Bravvo, Dale, and rest in peace.

Stathis Avramidis
3 years ago

Sad news. Really sad. One after the other the good guys and the aquatics legends are meeting each other on the “other side”. The Mecca of Aquatics will continue to keep their memory alive. The world of aquatics will continue to produce “new heroes” both front and behind the scenes. Dale will be missed. One of the greatest comments I heared about him, was in his last ISHOF Service Award ceremony; “he is one of the good guys!” God bless you Dale. Say hallo to Bob Duenkel, Bruce Hopping and to “Tiger” when you meet.