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Kyle Ditzler

Kyle Ditzler
Kyle Ditzler (11/15/1959 to 10/6/2012), with daughters Hannah and Izzy

A Tribute, by and with kind permission of Kristy Ditzler:

I started off my life as Kyle Ditzler’s little sister. Even at a young age, I recognized that he was very hip and cool, and I always strived to be just like him. When we were growing up in Houston, daily life was a little less about feeling protected by him than it was about learning to be tough and figuring out how to survive his ongoing pranks. One vivid memory I still recall was having to master a contraption called an Exer-Genie. It was a cylindrical device with a dial to increase or decrease resistance and a rope which you pulled to simulate swimming freestyle. I’d be hanging out in my room, minding my own business, when Kyle would show up and declare it to be, "Exer-Genie time." I would dutifully proceed to his room, feeling honored to enter his space. Before I knew it I was trapped and required to "swim" until I fell into a heap on the floor, utterly exhausted. Only then was I allowed to leave. But after each training session, I always returned to my room a little stronger and eager to do it again.

When I was 13, my parents and I moved to California. Kyle stayed behind to finish high school in Houston. He then went off to Alabama, and we went our separate ways. We kept in touch sporadically over the next 35 years or so until he became ill. One day several months ago, on Hayley’s advice, I sent Kyle and e-mail proposing a challenger for Izzy to beat my 400M free time than I did when I was 12. Kyle responded to that single e-mail something like 8 times. On ongoing dialogue ensued, and before I knew it, we had talked more than we had in the previous 35 years. While he got to learn about some of my childhood challenges and accomplishments for the first time, what I learned about him was far more important. I got to witness his love for his 2 beautiful daughters, Hannah and Izzy, and lovely wife, Hayley. And I got to experience his strength and courage and his passion for life. It was, in fact, his continued efforts to swim and to stay physically strong, that inspired me to overcome recent knee surgery and an old career-ending shoulder injury and to get back in the pool for real.

The day after Kyle left us, I posted a message on an e-mail list for Dad’s Club alumni. This is the team we swam on as kids. Now this list had not received any traffic in several months, but the number of responses I received was overwhelming. Many memories were shared, with common themes being Kyle’s humorous, fun nature and also how positive and encouraging he could be. Those who responded included Ellen Roehm Sivik, Tjeerd and Rinse Brink, Mitch Hale, John and Jenifer Webb, Carol Riddle Cowand, Michelle Merchent Richburg, Robert Killeen, Jr., and Philip Klein. But one response form Roger Murff, really resonated with me. Roger, I understand, now lives nearby, and his daughter swims for Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics. And interestingly, his dad now swims with me on the Master’s team at Longhorn Aquatics. 


Kyle Ditzler
Kyle Ditzler, ca 1970

So, I’d like to share what Roger told me…. 

"I've been thinking about Kyle all day. i can't even remember how long it's been since i've seen him, but he has an indelible place in my memory. When i was 9, i started my Dad's Club swimming career at a fall swim camp run by Skip Kenny. it turned out to be Skip's last year at Dad's, I think - he moved on to the Pepsi Marlins soon after. i want to say that Kyle and also Ted Knapp were the two swimmers assigned to my lane. Certainly it was Kyle and i'm pretty sure it was the two of them. I left that week under their direction and humor and warm support thinking that the rest of my life would be about swimming and working hard to get a gold medal. For the next couple of years that Kyle was around the Dad's Club he never forgot about me. I can't tell you how much it meant to a scrawny and not particularly fast new swimmer to have a guy like Kyle come up at a swim meet and ask how the race had gone and offer his encouragement…"

In conclusion, Roger said, "I am so very fortunate to have had Kyle’s influence in my life all those many years ago."

I feel similarly fortunate to have experienced Kyle’s influence and encouragement in my life so many years ago as his little sister, and then again more recently during his final year with us. On Monday this week, I dove into the pool at the University of Texas natatorium at 4:58 am and absolutely loved it! And I can’t wait to do it again next week. It’s Kyle’s inspiration that I have to thank for that. And you know, it only took a few weeks of straining at UT for several persons to figure out that I was related to Kyle. And so life has come full circle. I started off my life as Kyle Ditzler’s little sister, and all these years later, I am once again being referred to as Kyle’s little sister. And I have to say, I couldn’t feel prouder. 

In conclusion, I wanted to ask that as you think about Kyle today, please keep our parents, Clark and Joyce Ditzler of Houston Texas in your thoughts. They were unable to attend, but send their love and thanks to you for being here today.