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Aquatics Blog

Joe Hunsaker’s Passing

Joe Hunsaker

Joe Hunsaker

Joe Hunsaker, who died March 11, 2012 at age 74, struggled with multiple sclerosis since 1978  and cancer recently, is survived by his beloved wife, Charmaine Wilke Hunsaker who has been a loving partner for the past ten years, his children: Scot Hunsaker (Sue), Stephanie Hunsaker Policy (Al), Eric Hunsaker (Cindy) their mother and good friend Sandra McCarroll Hunsaker, grandchildren Brooke and Benjamin Hunsaker., step family members: Patrick Wilke, Thomas Wilke, Mary Carbrey, their children and grandchildren. A private Celebration of a Life gathering will be held by the family with his ashes later scattered in a picturesque lake in the Ozarks which was the setting for many treasured memories throughout his childhood and adult as well as representing  Joe’s lifelong association with water and the outdoors.

In 1970, Joe and James E. “Doc” Counsilman” PhD, Joe’s former swimming coach, joined forces to create Counsilman / Hunsaker & Associates, a consulting firm serving architects and owners in the creation of international class swimming pools. Counsilman’s reputation of developing more Olympians and world record holders than any other coach in the world and Joe’s experience as a champion swimmer, management company owner and an award winning designer soon brought prestigious projects to their door.

Joe Hunsaker was active on the national scene as a board member of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, president of the National Swim and Recreation Association, a board member of the International Swimming Hall Of Fame, a board member of the Internationale  Academie fur Baderbauten und Freizeit Hallen, (Germany) and the Chairman of the Public Pool Council of the National Spa and Pool Institute.

He was recognized as one of the premier designers of international class competition swimming and diving pools; having completed venues for the 1996 Olympic Games, the 1994 Commonwealth Games, The 1994 World University Games and the 1998 Goodwill Games. Other projects include the University Of Limerick -  Ireland; Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Notre Dame, Ohio State University, and the University of Georgia. Non education facilities include The Pentagon-US military headquarters, The Nike World Campus pools and the Indianapolis Natatorium.

Joe was born outside of Girard, Kansas during the great depression.  He would have likely taken over his father’s thriving livestock business if there had not been the tragedy of a train accident that killed his father and every head of livestock they owned.  Three years later at age 9 and with a new stepfather, Joe moved to south St. Louis.

At age 14, Joe walked through the door to the Cleveland High School swimming pool.  At 130 lbs and 6’1”, Joe was planning to spend four years on the Cleveland basketball squad, but while waiting for that season to begin, he went out for the swim team. Four months later he realized that he had a talent for the wet sport and he never went back to basketball. After finishing 6th in the State Meet his freshman year, He won two State Championships each in his junior year and his senior year along with a National YMCA Championship. It was during his junior year in high school that his mother died.

Joe was recruited by several schools and he chose the University of Illinois. Because the NCAA banned competition for freshmen in all sports in those days, he began to compete his sophomore season and finished 5th and 6th at the NCAA National Championships. Disappointed in his results he asked the famous coach “Doc” Counsilman if he could train with his handful of elite swimmers the following summer. The day after classes were over at Illinois, Joe began hitchhiking to Cortland NY, where he trained with Olympians and world record holders. The following season he won the National NCAA Championship in the 200 Individual Medley. He then won the same event the following year at the National AAU Championships with records in both races. The previous January he had bettered the world long course record.

In reviewing his life, Joe often stated that other than watching his children grow up, competing in swimming and designing swimming pools for world records, his favorite avocation was traveling around the world visiting countries for pleasure and business while making friends along the way.

As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be sent to the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) or the Multiple Sclerosis Society.


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