View Full Version : Paul Fortoul, 1958-2007

December 10th, 2007, 05:05 PM
Long-time attendees of the USMS annual convention received some bad news yesterday. Paul Fortoul of the Metropolitan LMSC passed away Saturday at the age of 49.

With immeasurable sadness, the Board of the Metropolitan Local Masters Swim Committee Inc. announce the passing of Coach Paul Fortoul on Saturday December 8, 2007 from rapid onset complications of a serious illness diagnosed a few months ago.

A swimming polymath of the first magnitude, he was a constant presence in both the METROPOLITAN Local Swim Committee (LSC) and the Local Masters Swim Committee (LMSC) as well as the national governing bodies for more than three decades as a coach, official, Board member, committee chair, delegate, national relay coordinator, meet director, timing system operator and athlete. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Metropolitan Swimming Hall of Fame.

He deeply affected the athletes he coached in Masters programs at Asphalt Green, Team New York Aquatics, Red Tide, West Side YMCA, the YWCA (1999-2005) and many individuals of many affiliations. He also did similarly with the age group programs of Fieldston School, AGUA, the New York Aquatic Club and many others. No one understood, able to cite chapter and verse of every aquatic sport rule book, the intricacies of swimming rules, statistics, by-laws and policies better than Paul. In a unseen and unheralded effort of enormous dimension, he made all of us safer as we swam and our leaders more accountable with his shark-like instincts of how procedures should and must be followed for fairness and safety to prevail. Few have served the swimming community in our area and in the gay/lesbian aquatics movement in such an enduring way.

His spirit now prowls the deck of many, many pools, arriving probably even now, as he often did, in a hurry, with an impossibly bulging briefcase, but quickly deploying himself, stopwatch in hand, workout in mind, breast pocket stuffed with pens and notes to self, sporting under combed hair and with glasses perched askew on his nose, reminding us, exhorting and inspiring us, with utter equanimity to all swimmers, big and small, slow and fast, young and old to reach our potential as athletes and maybe, if we thought about it, to do the same as human beings.

I began attending the USMS convention in 1993. It was hard to miss Paul. In the House of Delegates meetings, he was the guy wearing the fly-fishing vest and carrying a camera. When he participated in debates at the microphone he was usually quoting some sort of swimming rule.

In 2001 I swam in the IGLA Championships in Toronto. I was surprised to see Paul there, as well as a number of other people I had seen at conventions.

The USMS convention is held in conjunction with the conventions of the four other aquatic governing bodies (USA Swimming, USA Water Polo, USA Diving, USA Synchronized Swimming). The last night of the convention, Saturday night, there is always a big awards banquet for all five of the governing bodies. The banquet is held in a large hotel ballroom and is attended by probably 1,000 people.

That fall, at the USMS convention, Paul and I talked about how many of the USMS delegates had been at the Toronto meet that past summer. We came up with the idea of assembling an "IGLA table" at the banquet so we could all visit with each other. Paul took the lead on tracking everyone down in time to reserve a table.

Everyone had such a good time that the tradition of the "IGLA table" has continued. Paul wasn't at the last couple of conventions, but he would have been happy to know that now there are two "IGLA tables", as one is no longer enough to hold everyone!

Anna Lea

December 10th, 2007, 09:49 PM
I met Paul when I began swimming Masters in 1998 and found myself sharing a room with him in the dorms at USC at 1990 (?) Nationals. I saw him countless times at meets and OW swims in the years since, always wearing that fly-fishing vest (I thought it was a photog's jacket) stuffed with pens, etc. I don't think I ever saw him actually swim. He was remarkably selfless in devoting his time to supporting others who did.
He'll be missed.

January 21st, 2008, 08:55 AM
Thank you for posting the above about my brother Paul who died of kidney cancer in December.

Our family has created a web page in memoriam to Paul. The web page is at:


The page has information about Paul, the upcoming memorial service and contains links to other notices and tributes as well as a guest book.

The memorial service for Paul will be in the early afternoon of Sunday, February 10, 2008 at Fieldston High School in Riverdale.

- Karen - (on behalf of myself and my parents)
Karen Fortoul

January 21st, 2008, 09:56 AM
I did not know Paul - I have spent time this morning reading about Paul. I am going to spend time today reading more about him.

Thanks for setting up this website and bringing the website to our attention.

Swimming will surely miss him.

January 22nd, 2008, 01:12 PM
I was really worried about Paul and the other Metropolitan convention delegates after 9/11. I was relieved to see him post on some topic on the forum, so I knew he was OK. I emailed him to tell him how relieved I was, and to tell him I wanted to give him a big hug as soon as I saw him at the rescheduled convention. When that convention came to pass in Louisville, Paul came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder, and said "Where's my hug?" We hugged each other as if our lives depended on it. I've thought a lot about that hug since I heard of his passing. He was a kind, giving man, and I'm really going to miss him.

Swimmer Bill
January 23rd, 2008, 04:22 PM
Paul was at my first USMS Nationals. I spotted him on deck wearing long pants, long-sleeved button-down shirt, a photographer's equipment vest and his signature glasses. At the time I thought "who is this guy?"

I got to know him years later through the convention, and realized as unusual looking as he often was, Paul was equally kindhearted and dedicated as a volunteer. He was tenacious in the pursuit of all things he felt would better his LMSC and USMS, and he was a brilliant thinker. As a coach, he gave an amazing, challenging workout.

I'll really miss Paul!