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Viola Cady Krahn, 102; Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame Member

June 02, 2004|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Viola Cady Krahn, the holder of 17 masters world diving titles and whose lifelong swimming and diving career earned her induction into a swimming hall of fame, died Tuesday. She was 102.

Krahn, who competed in meets at age 101, died at a convalescent home in Orange after suffering a stroke in March, said her friend Margery Voyer Cole. Krahn had been a resident of Laguna Woods.

Krahn's induction into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in January capped a diving and swimming career that began more than 80 years ago.

At the time of her selection, Bob Duenkel, executive director of the hall of fame, said Krahn's story is "a great one, because she's been involved in diving her whole life."

"A lot of Olympic athletes serve as role models and inspirations for the young kids," Duenkel said, "but somebody like Vi Cady Krahn serves as an inspiration for the older people."

Krahn remained active late into her life.

John Samuelson, 58, of Carmel Valley, a competitive diver, recalled accompanying Krahn to a diving meet in Hawaii. She was then 95, and spectators didn't know whether she would get on the diving board, he said.

"Well, she got on the board, walked, and then did a hurdle and a jump and dove in with a swan dive. The spectators cheered and went wild," Samuelson said.

At 100, Krahn dived effortlessly into a pool on the set of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

She limited her diving activities in the last couple of years but liked to joke that she was the only competitor in her age group, Cole said.

"She once told me that the reason she lived so long was that she was an only child, never had children and ate ice cream every day," said Cole, who wrote a book about Krahn, "Viola: Diving Wonder and Aquatic Champion."

Krahn began swimming and diving in 1919 after her family moved from Arizona to Los Angeles. She won junior national diving championships in 1922, '23 and '24. In 1922, she set the fastest pace for a female at that time for the 220 meters.

During the 1920s in Los Angeles, athletes mingled with movie stars, and Krahn knew such celebrities as Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who starred in the "Tarzan" movies, as well as Harold Lloyd, Al Jolson, Buster Crabbe, Errol Flynn and surfing's Duke Kahanamoku.

Krahn married Fred Cady, then her swim coach at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, in 1923. He died in 1960 and was posthumously inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

In the late 1960s, Krahn moved from Sherman Oaks to Leisure World in southern Orange County.

There she met her second husband, Fred Krahn. They were married in 1970; he died in 1986.

Through his support, she returned to diving in 1978.

Despite her competitive zeal, she once told Samuelson: "Old age: I don't recommend it."

She is survived by several of Fred Krahn's nieces.

Services will be private.

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