Huskies rowing great Moch dies
Seattle Times staff reporter
Bob Moch, coxswain of the 1936 University of Washington eight-oared crew that won the Olympic gold medal in front of Adolph Hitler, has died at age 90.
Moch, a retired lawyer, had suffered a stroke at his apartment at an Issaquah retirement facility Jan. 7, according to his wife, LaVerne. He died Tuesday at a care facility on the Sammamish Plateau.
"Bob was a great friend, a great coxswain and a great person," said Huskies teammate Jim McMillin of Bainbridge Island yesterday. The other surviving oarsmen from the storied crew are Roger Morris of Maple Valley and Joe Rantz of Redmond.
Morris echoed McMillin's comments, saying, "Bob was absolutely tremendous as a coxswain and as a person."
The Huskies' victory in the 1936 Olympics is considered among the greatest achievements in state history.
"We owe him a ton for helping win that race in Berlin," McMillin said. "We were in deep trouble, and he was able to pull us out of it."
The Huskies had been placed in Lane 6, where they were most exposed to the weather. The Germans were in Lane 1.
"We were as far away as you could be," Morris said.
The Huskies didn't hear the start and were in last place with less than 1,000 meters left in the 2,000-meter race. One reason was that stroke Don Hume was ill.
In a Times interview last year, Moch said that during the race "Don's eyes were closed and his mouth was wide open. For all intents and purposes, he had passed out."
Just as Moch was about to ask Rantz in the No. 7 seat to set the stroke, Hume suddenly became alert again.
McMillin said the crowd noise was so loud that Moch's megaphone was useless, so the senior coxswain banged effectively on the side of the shell to signal the desired cadence. As the finish line approached, McMillin said Moch then called for "a 20" (20 powerful strokes) and the rowers thought those would be the final strokes of the race.
"We hit 17 and 18, and then he said 20 more on top of that," McMillin said. "I don't know where we got that last 20."
McMillin estimates that the strokes-per-minute rate reached about 45. The Huskies passed Germany and then Italy in the final 10 strokes to win the gold.
"I can still remember Bob saying in kind of a half-whisper, 'I think we won,' but no one was sure," McMillin said. "Then we saw a friend who was a spectator on the shore, and he was jumping about 10 feet in the air, so we figured we did it."
Mrs. Moch said a private gathering will be held to commemorate her husband's life. She said the date hasn't been set.
The Mochs married in 1968 after his first wife, Barbara, died. They each had three children from their first marriages. They are Michael K. Moch, a professor at Michigan State, Marilyn Moch of Seattle, Robert Moch of Whidbey Island, Michael Jacobs of Bend, Ore., Patricia Sabin of Chehalis and Sharon Alexander of Seattle.
There are 13 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. He also is survived by a sister, Marjorie Robertson of Bainbridge Island.
Mr. Moch was born and raised in Montesano, Grays Harbor County.
Memorials are suggested to the Dick Erickson Scholarship Fund at the UW, the George Pocock Rowing Foundation and the Sigma Tau Education Foundation, which funds scholarships for undergraduate members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at the UW.
Members of the 1936 crew who died in recent years were George Hunt, John White, Gordy Adam and Hume. Charles Day, who died of cancer, was the only man in the boat who didn't reach old age.
Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or email@example.com
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