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by Michael Watkins

June 22, 2022

Rague was a tireless USMS committee leader, swimmer, and coach who was dedicated to Masters Swimming

Skip Thompson fondly remembers how he met Suzanne Rague. Their 30-plus-year friendship started through a mutual friend who attended Stanford University.

“I told him I was in Masters Swimming, and he said he knew a classmate in his economics class that was a swimmer competing in the (Masters) program,” says Thompson, a member of Michigan Masters. “One of the things he remembered about her was she was always getting the highest grades on the exams in class.”

Thompson made a point to see if he could locate Rague at the national championship that year at Stanford. Because the meet welcomed 2,328 swimmers, he figured it was a slim chance that he would connect with her, but he tried nonetheless.

He noticed from the heat sheets she was swimming the 500 freestyle. When Rague was done, he introduced himself and told her he was excited to be there.

“She was very friendly, and I noticed she swam all of the tough events like the 200 fly, 400 IM and the mile, which she did at this meet and placed very well in all of them,” he says. “She talked about being on the Stanford campus and how it has changed in the last 15 years. Besides her swimming, she talked about being involved in music, and those were her passions.”

Thompson was among the many friends, competitors, and teammates who said goodbye to their dear friend when Rague passed away in June.

During her long connection with Masters Swimming, she held numerous committee positions and received many awards and honors for her tireless work on behalf of a sport and organization she believed in and loved.

“I remember Suzanne as a kind, generous, loyal friend,” says Gail Dummer, a member of Michigan Masters. “I thoroughly enjoyed her company.”

Dummer says Rague was interested in the people she met and was always pleasant and gracious in her interactions. She and Rague traded light-hearted jibes about their respective alma maters, Stanford (Rague’s) and the University of California, Berkeley (Dummer’s), but they always respected one another in and out of the water.

“Her accomplishments at Stanford were as noteworthy as those at USMS,” Dummer says. “I will miss Suzanne more than these words can express.”

Rague served on the Finance, Legislation, Long Distance, and Recognition and Awards Committees, was a member of the Board of Directors from 1990–1997, and was USMS’s controller for two years. In 1996, she received the Capt. Ransom J. Arthur M.D. Award, USMS’s most prestigious volunteer award, one given annually to the volunteer who most furthers the objectives of the organization.

Rague also coedited the USMS newsletter WATERMARKS and the magazine SWIM with Tamalpais Aquatics Masters member Nancy Ridout, and served as the LMSC newsletter editor for the Metropolitan LMSC. She did all of this while working full-time as a controller for several small businesses.

Puget Sound Masters member Kathy Casey says she always knew with Rague directing USMS’s finances, there were never any question that the organization was in good hands.

“My thoughts on USMS financial questions during her USMS terms [serving] were ‘Whatever Suzanne says,’” Casey says. “She never ever got ‘ruffled’ during any of her work. She was always kind and honest and explained all the details so everyone could understand.”

Another memory Casey has of Rague involves her amazing compassion and caring.

“After losing an election for a USMS office, Suzanne was the first to seek me out and console me, in a quiet, compassionate manner,” Casey says.

In the summer of 1993, Rague moved to Oregon from New York and started a new business but remained involved with the sport. She became very involved with the LMSC as treasurer and recorded records and ran meets.

Oregon Masters member Sandi Rousseau, who swam with Rague in Oregon, identifies Rague as having been a staunch supporter and contributor throughout her life no matter what she did, swimming, music, and even public broadcasting.

In the earlier years of Masters Swimming, she says, Rague was a sound voice that contributed to USMS entering into an organized, efficient, and balanced financial situation.

“Her knowledge and organizational skills really put USMS on a sound path forward,” Rousseau says. “After she moved from New York to Oregon, she immediately became involved in our Oregon LMSC board of directors and was a major contributor to our leadership.”

Thompson says his admiration for Rague included her performances at USMS meets as well as the time she took to pass along her swimming knowledge coaching. She also had an interest in the virtual championships and open water swimming, which he fondly remembers discussing with her for the first time.

“She said with her limited swimming background before Masters, she would try it (open water) out,” he says. “I was just getting started in 1985, and I asked her if she did 5K or 10K swims. I was stunned to find out that after one year of open water swimming, she attempted and successfully completed a 25-mile swim. She said she could not move her arms very well for a week. That pretty much sums up the determination she had in her life.”


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