June Krauser, who wrote the rules for masters swimming competitions in their infancy in the 1970s and set more than 200 records while making a name for herself as the "Mother of Masters Swimming," died Aug. 2 in Pompano Beach, Fla. She was 88 and had Parkinson's disease.
Krauser was born in Indianapolis in 1926, learned to swim in Lake Michigan during family visits to Chicago, and won a national championship in the breaststroke when she was 16.
In 1955 she and her husband, Jack, moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where she focused her attention on her son and daughter and began officiating at their local swim meets.
"She didn't swim when we were children. She'd lounge at the pool," her daughter, Janice Krauser-Keeley, told the Sun Sentinel in Florida.
That changed in 1970, when John Spannuth of the Amateur Athletic Union and the late Dr. Ransom Arthur, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, approached Krauser about creating competitions for adult swimmers.
"Arthur suggested we have a committee called Swimming for Older Ages to encourage older individuals to swim on a regular basis [for] their physical fitness levels," Spannuth, still active in water fitness leadership, told the Miami Herald.
"Some people just absolutely opposed it," her daughter recalled. "Older people competing? Are you out of your mind? There was the country club existence of genteel athletics, none of this competing business."
Spannuth said Krauser "literally wrote the book when it came to competitive swimming for adults and for the Special Olympics, and did more to kick-start those two programs than anyone will ever know."
By 1972, masters swimming, initially for athletes 25 and older, was born. Today, about 60,000 swimmers ages 19 and over are enrolled in masters swimming programs in the United States, with many more the world over.
Krauser, who had retired from national competitive swimming after earning a home economics degree in 1948 from Purdue University, began her own comeback in 1972 at age 45.
Between 1972 and 2006, she set 154 national masters records and 73 international ones, according to Bruce Wigo, chief executive of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. At the same time, she took charge of the family's steel-tubing sales business following a series of strokes her husband suffered in 1971.
She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1994 and the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame in 2003.
In addition to her daughter, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Krauser is survived by her son, Larry, of Spokane, Wash., three grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.