Remembering a Swim Team Dad

Timer in hand, Dean Thrush was a fixture poolside at almost every Lakelands Lionfish swim meet.

Even with a pump delivering chemotherapy treatment into his body, Thrush volunteered as a timer for the team he loved.

On June 12, the Lionfish celebrated his life and dedication to the team with a memorial tree planting and plaque. Thrush died January 11 at 52 years old after battling colon cancer and is survived by wife Anne, sons Grant and Sam, and daughters Emma and Sophie. The Thrush boys and daughter Emma all swam for the team, and Emma is continuing as a Lionfish this summer.

“The Lionfish lost a member of our family when Dean Thrush died. We wanted to do something to remember him by. Everybody liked Dean,” said Connie Ingalls, Lionfish team manager.

Thrush’s family and Ingalls spoke about his contributions as a father and community member before taking a plaque to a tree planted in his honor near the path to Billy’s Playground off Main Street.

“The swim team was always his thing,” said Anne Thrush. “Even when he got sick there was not question he would continue to help the team.” Ironically, she said, Dean didn’t know how to swim himself.

A robust man, Thrush was an active father who could be found teaching Sam, a Rachel Carson fourth grader, to snap a football; helping eldest son Grant with his advanced math homework; taking 5-year-old Sophie to Billy’s Playground; and cheering on Emma as she swam for the Lionfish.

“He loved to go to all the meets and watch us. We got really excited when we swam in his lane,” Emma said. “He just liked being with us.”

Thrush was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in early spring 2009, and it quickly spread throughout his body. Despite fighting a tough and brave battle against the cancer, Thrush died in January, his family by his side.

Thrush is buried in a family grave site in his hometown of Shippensburg, Pa. Anne said she is glad to have a memorial now close to home.

“His burial plot is too far for [the kids] to see his grave so it will be nice that this tree is close by. Sam will pass it every day when he goes to school,” she said.

Growing up on a farm with parents who were landscapers, Anne said a tree is a fitting way to honor him.

“As the years go by, the tree will bloom and grow, and it is in a spot where we all pass by it and can see it and think of what a great swim team dad he was,” Ingalls said.