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Jim Doty: A swimmer who made a difference, and a swim in his memory

Some swimmers do more than just swim – they make a difference to their communities and other people’s lives. On such person was Jim Doty, who passed away in 2012 after a long illness. He was an open-water swimming legend among New England swimmers who charted new marathon swim routes and adventures all around the region. He was also responsible for forming the non-profit New England Marathon Swimming Association (NEMSA), which is dedicated to promoting swimming and a clean aquatic environment in New England.

Now in its third year, the Annual James J. Doty Memorial Mile Swim commemorates this swimmer’s contribution and achievements. Taking place at the L Street Bathhouse (Curley Community Center) in South Boston this year’s addition attracted 51 swimmers, of which 49 completed the mile loop. Despite a grey and drizzly start, the weather perked up in time for the swim.

Prior to the start of the 2014 race, swimmers and members of the Doty family along with friends of the family and other members of the community participated in a remembrance of Jim Doty and a dedication ceremony for the two new clocks that have been installed at the L Street Bathhouse in his memory. Several friends, swimmers, and family members spoke of how Jim had influenced their lives and their swimming pursuits and thanked him for his generosity of spirit, time, experience, and passion for life.

Of the dedication ceremony, Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association President Greg O’Connor says: “It feels good to see the open-water swimming community give back to someone who gave so much of himself. The clocks that have been installed at the L Street Bathhouse will aid swimmers training in the harbour, and that seems a fitting memorial.”
Jim Doty picked up open water swimming in his 30s to lose weight and soon became a top competitor in the elite ranks of marathon swimmers. From participating in the 24-hour La Tuque relay event in the 1960s to setting numerous distance and speed records to and from the Boston Lighthouse, Graves Light, around Cape Ann, and several other iconic locations. Jim re-started the Boston Light Swim back in the mid-1970s after a long hiatus. The 8-mile BLS is the oldest open-water swim race in America and is used by many open water swimmers as a launching pad for more arduous challenges like solo crossings of the English Channel.