Joe Rantz, a member of the 1936 University of Washington eight-oared crew that won the Olympic gold medal, died Monday night. Rantz, 93, died of...
Joe Rantz, a member of the 1936 University of Washington eight-oared crew that won the Olympic gold medal, died Monday night.
Rantz, 93, died of age-related causes at the home of his daughter, Judy Willman of Redmond.
“He was about as good a teammate as you could get,” said Roger Morris of Maple Valley, who is the sole remaining member of the revered crew.
The victory in the 1936 Olympics in Germany was one of the major sports stories in Seattle in the first half of the 20th century.
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“At that time, rowing was a major-league sport in this town,” said Bob Ernst, who heads the current UW rowing program. “It’s still important, but the fact they were able to be national champions and then take on the world overseas in Germany amidst all the turmoil is something that made a lot of people identify with them.”
Rantz, who never lost a race as a Husky, rowed the No. 7 seat in the Olympic boat. The Huskies were in Lane 6 and didn’t hear the start command.
Accounts say that Rantz yelled, “The race has started. Let’s get out of here!”
The Huskies were in last place at the 1,000-meter halfway mark and coxswain Bob Moch called for a higher stroke rate but stroke Don Hume was ill — his eyes were closed and his mouth open. Moch was about ready ask Rantz, the closest man to him in the boat, to set the stroke, but Hume suddenly responded.
The Huskies started passing other shells, reaching an estimated stroke rate of 44 strokes a minute, and won.
Rantz was born in Spokane and his mother died when he was 3. He lived with relatives and at times with his father.
He was living with his brother, Fred, and attending Roosevelt High School when UW rowing coach Al Ulbrickson Sr. saw him practicing on the high bar for the gymnastics team and was impressed.
“When he comes to the university, you have him look me up and talk about crew,” Ulbrickson told Fred.
Rantz studied chemical engineering at UW and worked 35 years for Boeing. After retirement, he went into business for himself making posts and shakes, and other products from cedar. His wife, Joyce, died in 2002. They had raised their family of five in Lake Forest Park.
A memorial service will be held at the Lake Forest Park Presbyterian Church, 17440 Brookside Blvd. N.E., at 1 p.m. Sept. 29. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the UW Crew, P.O. Box 354070, Seattle, WA 98195. The family plans to donate Rantz’s rowing memorabilia to UW.