Still Swimming at 90: Beaverdale Swim Instructor Calling it Quits After Seven Decades in the Water

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Tom Cady may be turning 90 in just a few days, but when it comes to him and the water, he says he feels like one of the kids.

“My wife accuses me of being one. That’s why I can connect with them,” Cady said.

At 16-years-old he taught his first swimming lesson and hasn’t stopped since.

“It’s the kind of job that I don’t think it was a job,” Cady said. “It was more of a hobby. I loved to be around around swimming pools and I get great joy out of teaching kids to be successful in the water.”

For the past 50 years he’s taught in his backyard in the Beaverdale neighborhood.

“80 percent of learning to swim is psychological,” Cady said.

But Cady makes those fears go away. Multiple parents say their kids wouldn’t get in the water with anyone else.

“He’s very patient very he goes at their pace. As you can see, there’s only a couple kids in the pool at one time with him, so that’s a lot of one-on-one. It’s good,” Melissa O’Neal said.

He knows what it takes to be a competitor as well, swimming for North High School and the University of Iowa, before returning to Des Moines to become a Hall of Fame swim coach at Lincoln High School.

“Of course they all said, ‘you are the best at taking mediocre kids and making swimmers out of them. So you’re the best mediocre coach we’ve ever had,’” Cady said.

His lessons went beyond the breaststroke, teaching a lifelong skill to many who grew up to do the same thing.

“Thirty former swimmers that I had ended up being swimming coaches. That really gave me the satisfaction, gratification of what I did,” Cady said.

Now the Great Grandpa says his multiple generation long list of students must come to an end.

“How’s that going to feel teaching your last class?” Channel 13’s Whitney Blakemore asked.

“Empty,” Cady replies.

Cady has taught them all, from beginners to triathletes. He also has a whole family of swimmers. His four daughters all taught swimming lessons in that same backyard at some point in their lives.

The family asked if you are a former student or were impacted by Cady in some way, to feel free to send him a birthday card. His 90th birthday is July 19th.


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