By Rob Charry
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — John Hooter, a Father Judge graduate and former Temple rower and rowing coach, died last week at the age of 66.
Hooten died in Sacramento while rowing — he was training for an upcoming regatta. His death rocked the rowing community in the Delaware Valley and the Sacramento Valley.
In the early 1970’s, Temple crew was coached by the aptly named Bear Curran, a former Olympic rower who had started the Temple rowing program in 1966. His heavyweight eight, featured two sons of Temple coaches in other sports, who would — not surprisingly — go on to become coaches themselves (Jack St Clair Jr., Villanova crew and Gavin White Jr., Temple crew).
The coxswain of the eight, was Hooten, who would go on to make his own mark in coaching at the legendary Vesper Boat club.
After his days at Temple, Hooten coached the women at Vesper Boat Club. In 1976, the year women’s crew made its Olympic debut, Vesper women who had rowed under Hooten dominated the U.S. team. He would go on to coach 18 Olympians at Vesper, including his future wife Sue and now International Olympic Committee Vice President Anita DeFrantz. His coaching career also included time as an assistant coach for the U.S Olympic team in 1976 and coach of the U.S National Team.
Before moving to California in 1985 with his wife, a Temple med school grad who was beginning a four year stint with the National Health Services Corps, Hooten was an Olympic analyst for crew, and spent 1984-85 as Temple crew coach, while Gavin White was on sabbatical to complete his doctorate—Temple’s heavyweight eight would win the Dad Vail Regatta that year, towards the beginning of a run that saw Temple’s heavyweight eight win the Vails feature race 20 times in 22 years.
While Hooten retired from coaching crew after 1985, he didn’t retire from coaching. He was a beloved scout troop leader and youth swim coach in Northern California until his death, influencing scores of young leaders to be. He was also a unicyclist who “shared” his knowledge with others and a talented cartoonist (his works were featured in rowing magazines over the years) and artist.
Temple’s crew coach emeritus Gavin White Jr. told Temple’s website: “He had one of the greatest minds of any coxswains I have known.”
Ann Jonik, a 1976 Olympian who was coached by Hooten at Vesper, said, “Even though we were a team, he nurtured each of us as individuals. He always took pride in our accomplishments, and had a great sense of humor that kept everyone relaxed.”
Many of his former rowers—who gathered in Philadelphia two years ago with John and his wife to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first women’s Olympic rowing team—will be flying across the country this week to celebrate his life on Saturday in Sacramento.
A future celebration/remembrance in Philadelphia along the banks of the Schuylkill River this spring is in the planning stages.