A true champion with true grit
Saying goodbye to someone like Herbert Frank Eisenschmidt is almost impossible. There are so many great memories to recount and tell again and again. He was born in Leipzig, Germany. He and his mother followed his father to the United States in 1910. Initially they lived in New York, and then moved to Portland.
During his high school years in Jefferson, he started competitive swimming at the old Portland Natatorium. He graduated and matriculated to O.A.C., now Oregon State University. He studied for his teaching credentials, and represented the university in swimming. He was a premier backstroker in the Pacific Coast Conference, and also in the Northwest, representing the Multnomah Athletic Club, plus competing in the 1932 Olympic Trials. He graduated with a B.S. degree in 1934.
He and Alta were married in 1935. Herb stayed on at OSU for five years, working as manager of the Memorial Union Building, and head swimming coach.
In 1939 he went to work for the St. Helens School District as manager of the new swimming pool. In addition he taught P.E., Health, Science, and coached the wrestling and swimming teams. He also coached fencing, plus being the trainer for the football, basketball, baseball, and track teams.
After two years with the Army Medical Corps during WWII, Herb returned to St. Helens. During the summers, Herb worked for the Shaver Forwarding Company, in their tugboat business, while finding time to be scoutmaster for the seascout troup. He retired in 1972, but continued to substitute in teaching whenever needed. His name in St. Helens simply became, "Mr. E." and that is what he will always be known as, "Mr. E."
Somehow, during all this Herb and Alta managed some time for a family. Raising a son Kurt and a daughter Karen, plus enjoying their favorite vacation spot, Death Valley. He and a friend, at auction, bought five beach lots in Netarts for $12.00 in 1929. Herb built two rustic cabins and entertained his family as well as students. He was known for his huge appetite, which never added a pound to his body. With all his boundless energy and enthusiasm, gaining weight was impossible.
Herb's first Masters swimming meet was at the MAC, April 1, 1978, setting OMS and Zone records in the 50, 100 and 200 back. He was 71. It is interesting to note that his times in that age group (70-74), would still make the Top 5 for the 100 and 200. Herb was a swimmer! One of his favorite memories, was teaming with Forbes Mack, Earl Walter and Bob Morrison, to set a new world record in the medley relay at the 1987 State Games.
Herb's goal was to be All-American. In 1984 he was ranked number one. From then on, Herb was All-American every year he swam. Twice he was selected U.S. Masters Swimmer of the Year, and was Oregon Masters "Top Male Swimmer" from 1985 thru 1991. He still holds two world records and countless State Games, Oregon and Zone records.
Your writer has been in Masters since 1974. I have never known anyone the likes of Herb Eisenschmidt. He was a true champion; in short Herb had true grit. Many of you will recall the times he hit the wall on a backstroke turn, no matter, bruised and bloody, he would continue swimming the entire meet. He was the first one to lend encouragement to fellow swimmers, I can hear him now, "Come on Earl, swim harder, give it all you've got".
Yes, Herb Eisenschmidt was something else. A champion, a wonderful father, husband, coach and friend. There is no doubt in my mind Herb will be remembered and loved for a long, long time. We miss you Herb!
Originally published in Aqua-Master, February, 1996.