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For the week of March 7 through 13, 2001

In the swim, for Dick Pomeroy

Well-known swimming coach battles tumor

Express Staff Writer

If you’ve lived in the Wood River Valley for any length of time and know how to swim, chances are you’ve learned something from Dick Pomeroy.

Pomeroy, 57, a former Masters champion and Olympic trials competitor, has coached thousands in the pool.

"Everyone has learned to swim from Dick," his wife Mo Barry said. "Little kids. Adults. People who are scared to death of water. He can teach anyone. He has great skills."

But he’s also subject to life’s inexplicable ups-and-downs.

In December, Pomeroy was stricken with an inoperable brain tumor.

A fund-raising event in which people can swim or pledge money is being held Friday, March 9 at Sun Valley Athletic Club in Ketchum to help with Pomeroy’s considerable medical expenses.


A life of swimming

Pomeroy came to swimming as a 16-year old growing up in Walnut Creek, California.

He joined the Treasure Island AAU swim team, which featured another promising swimmer named Donna DeVarona, who eventually went on to Olympic glory.

Pomeroy attended Indiana University. As a member of the Indiana and U.S. national swim teams he competed in three Olympic trials—in 1960, 1964 and 1968. His best event was the 200-meter breaststroke.

In the latter part of the 1960s, Pomeroy joined the U.S. Navy and served as an emergency medical technician on an aircraft carrier stationed in Guam, where he coached local children.

When he moved back to the Bay Area he started an ambulance business and continued to coach and teach swimming to both children and adults.

Pomeroy and Barry, who was also a Masters-class swimmer, met at national Masters meet in Portland, Ore.

The pair of breaststrokers (she specialized in the 1500 meter) started dating in 1982 and moved to the Valley in 1989 with two of Dick’s three children from his first marriage, Susie (now 25) and George (27). Dick’s oldest, John, is 31.

For three years, Pomeroy ran the pools at Elkhorn Resort. He joined the staff at Sun Valley Athletic Club in 1990 where he started teaching lessons and coaching Masters and junior swim programs.

"He’s a wonderful guy. Very carefree and easy going," said Bill Cantrell, manager of SVAC. "Just a joy to be around."

Fast-forward to December 2000.

Barry said, "Dick had weakness in his leg. He was just getting over bronchitis and attributed it to that. He recovered from the bronchitis, but still had the weakness. Within five days the weakness had spread to his right arm."

On Dec. 19, after a visit to a local neurologist, Pomeroy had a MRI on his brain. It showed a walnut-sized tumor located in the left side of his brain.

Two days later, doctors at the University of Utah Medical Center went in with a fine-gauge needle and biopsied the growth. They determined it to be a Grade 4 advanced tumor which was inoperable because of its location in the brain.

Not to be confused with cancer, which can spread to other organs, a tumor generally stays in the same area, Barry said.

"I think of it as a plus that it was a tumor and not cancer," she said. "We’re optimistic we’re going to beat this and life is going to be normal again."

Pomeroy returned to Utah Jan. 5 and underwent stereo tactic radio surgery. Doctors shot an extremely high dose of radiation into Pomeroy’s head.

He suffered severe side effects from the treatment.

"He was totally paralyzed on his right side and could not speak," Barry said. "He was a vegetable. They found out later that the swelling from the procedure had caused a brain hemorrhage."

Instead of returning home as expected, Pomeroy undertook a massive rehabilitation program, spending six hours a day in occupational, speech and physical therapy.

"They rehabbed him like he was a stroke victim," Barry said.

Barry, who spent 12 hours days every day with Pomeroy at the hospital, came home with Dick on Jan. 20. Two days later he moved into Blaine Manor where he could receive around the clock care.

Five days a week, Pomeroy is driven by friends to Twin Falls where he is undergoing 33 radiation treatments at the Southern Idaho Regional Cancer Center.

"He gets picked up at 11 a.m., has treatment at 1, goes to Dairy Queen for a shake and then goes home," said Barry.

This regimen will continue until mid-March. Then he will have another MRI and his team of doctors at the University of Utah will determine the protocol for chemotherapy, which could last 12 to 15 months.

On the weekend, Pomeroy returns to the Hailey home he shares with Barry and they go swimming at the club in an effort to strengthen his body.

"He loves getting in the water," Barry said.

"The doctors told us to get him a life preserver before we got him into the water and we said ‘are you kidding? This guy doesn’t need a life preserver’."


Friday’s swim-a-thon

Masters swimmers at Sun Valley Athletic Club are hosting a swim-a-thon for Pomeroy Friday, March 9 from 3-7 p.m.

Anybody who would like to participate, by swimming laps or pledging money, is invited.

Sign-up sheets and pledge sheets are available at the front desk of SVAC, 726-3664. A raffle will be held and prizes will be given out. And Dick Pomeroy is expected to attend the event.



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