In Loving Memory of Paul Fortoul…
Paul Fortoul was our coach and our friend. The letter below was written by Conrad Johnson, then the TNYA head coach, and sent out by Metropolitan Masters. If you have memories of Paul you’d like to share, please send them to our Board of Directors and we’ll be happy to post them here. You may enjoy reading an interview Paul gave in March 1995 for our old newsletter-cum-literary-magazine, the Wet Rag. Note also that the Fortoul family has set up a website remembering Paul. Finally, an online guest book appears alongside Paul’s death notice at the New York Times website.
A scholarship program for swimmers who need financial assistance in order to swim with TNYA has been established in Paul’s memory: The Paul Fortoul Fellowships.
With immeasurable sadness, the Board of the Metropolitan Local Masters Swim Committee Inc. announces the passing of Coach Paul Fortoul on Saturday December 8, 2007 from from an aggressive type of kidney cancer that had already metastasized when it was diagnosed in September.
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 sharklike 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.
— Conrad Johnson