Pat McCormick, a Seal Beach native who grew up practicing diving from Long Beach bridges and went on to win two gold medals at both the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics, has died. She was 92.
McCormick, who also won the James E. Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete in the US in 1956 – becoming only the second woman to do so — and served on the organizing committee for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, died on Tuesday, March 7, in an assisted living home in Santa Ana from natural causes.
McCormick and fellow U.S. Olympian Greg Louganis are the only divers to snare gold in both the springboard and platform events at multiple Olympics. McCormick held the Olympic record of four diving gold medals — until Louganis tied her by capturing his fourth in 1988.
McCormick parlayed her Olympic success into a career as a motivational speaker for young people.
“She was a motivational speaker,” said her daughter, Kelly McCormick, who was also an Olympic diver, “who taught young people in low-income areas to surround themselves with good people.”
Patricia Joan Keller McCormick was born on May 12, 1930, in Seal Beach.
She attended Woodrow Wilson High School, Long Beach City College and California State Long Beach.
By practicing her dives off Long Beach bridges, she was able to learn to execute those that were not allowed in competition for female divers.
Friends and family agreed that what she achieved as a result of her gold medals was what she was most proud of.
“Peter Ueberroth, the organizer of the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, suggested Pat form a non-profit to motivate young people,” friend Tracy Roberts Mackey said in a phone interview. Ueberroth met McCormick when she served on the 1984 Organizing committee.
Pat’s Champs was the name of the foundation she formed to help motivate kids to dream big and to set practical ways to succeed.
According to Bob Griffith (Bob of Bobs Rexall on Main Street in Seal Beach) she traveled all over the United States speaking to young people. He shared memories of her flying to Nebraska to deliver a motivational speak to the High School he had attended.
“She was a tough, one-of-a-kind woman,” said Griffith, a friend who helped McCormick in many ways, and some referred to him as her “secret angel.”
“She was a spunky and spicy person-tornado, telling everyone what to do,“ Tracy Roberts Mackey said in a phone interview.
“She would start each early with her dog Brave at her side, writing her list of goals for the day,” said Mackey. “Next, she would go to breakfast at one of two Seal Beach restaurants — Yucatan Restaurant or Glory Days — where there is a bench in her honor. After breakfast she and Brave would go to Arbor Park.”
She served on the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics organizing committee.
“She wore her heart on her sleeve”, daughter Kelly said. “She loved animals and kids.”
After the Olympics, McCormick did diving tours and was a model for Catalina swimsuits.
She is survived by her two children, Kelly, who won two silver and bronze Olympic medals in diving and Tim, who was born just five months before McCormick won two gold medals at the Melbourne Olympics. She was preceded in death her former husband and diving coach, Glenn who died in 1995.
Services are private. McCormick made her own funeral arrangements years in advance with the Neptune Society .