Janice-Lee Romary, who competed as a fencer in six consecutive Olympics and was the first woman to carry the U.S. flag during opening ceremonies, died Thursday from complications related to Alzheimer's disease at her home in Klamath Falls, Ore., her family said. She was 79.
Romary competed in the Olympic foil event from 1948 until 1968, finishing fourth in 1952 and 1956. She and Maria Cerra (1948) share the mark for the highest finish by a U.S. female fencer in the Olympics.
"Fencing is like a chess game, play and counter-play," Romary said in a 1968 interview with The Times, adding, "It's also great for letting out aggressions -- better to let them out on an opponent than your husband."
Later that year, Romary carried the flag at her final Olympics, the Mexico City Games.
"I felt like the most special person in the world," Romary recalled in a 1988 interview with Newsday. "I have never felt so proud in my whole life."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday June 09, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 49 words Type of Material: Correction
Romary obituary: An obituary of fencer Janice-Lee Romary in Tuesday's California section reported that she and Maria Cerra had the best Olympic performances by U.S. female fencers by finishing fourth. At the 2004 Olympics, Mariel Zagunis won a gold medal and Sada Jacobson won bronze in the sabre competition.
Romary won 10 U.S. foil championships overall and had won eight national championships in 13 years when she missed the 1959 competition because of pregnancy.
"I can remember when she took lessons sitting on a high stool when she was pregnant so that she wouldn't have to stand on her feet," said her husband, Charles, also an elite fencer who took up the sport after they married in 1953.
After giving birth, Romary went on to win two more national titles and a gold medal at the 1967 Pan American Games.
She went on to become the women's administrator for the U.S. Olympic Committee at the 1976 Montreal Games, responsible for all U.S. female competitors. She was also the commissioner of fencing for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Romary and her husband, an oceanographic engineer, later ran a water purification business in Oregon.
Born Aug. 6, 1927, in Palo Alto, Janice-Lee York learned to fence as a child at Austrian director Max Reinhardt's Dramatic Workshop in Hollywood, which her father, Shelby York, managed. She also participated in the sport while attending USC in the late '40s.
In addition to her husband, Romary is survived by daughter Lisa Romary of Beaverton, Ore., and son Charles "Chip" Romary of Northridge; grandchildren Danielle Dobey and Jason Dobey; and brother Shelby York of Placentia.
Services were held Saturday in Oregon.