When rowing community legend John Hooten passed away while rowing on March 6, the fact that the news of his passing had headlines that barely mentioned his legendary status in the rowing world tells you a lot about John Hooten.
"Renowned scoutmaster John Hooten..."
"Swim Club Coach John Hooten..."
And, according to his Johnson Ranch swimming club bio, he was founder of the Troopizi Unicycle Club, from which club riders have won 11 national championships and medals in three world championships.
(Not only was he a rowing coach turned swimming coach, he was good at it, too.)
Scoutmaster? Swimming coach? World class unicycle club leader? Hold on, wasn't he a rowing coach?
He was, and was a coxswain and oarsman as well.
That is a lot of impressive and cool stuff, but for many rowers, John Hooten was the world's greatest rowing cartoonist, a man who made cartoons that were not only funny and entertaining, but also absolutely right on target; the cartoons showed a guy who knew rowing, and even more, knew rowers.
(To tell the truth, when I first saw the bit about the unicycle club, I assumed it was the cartoonist in Hooten coming out in an official bio, but the club is real; I would have believed it either way though.)
He was a great coxswain and a successful rowing coach, having coxed the varsity at Temple (where he got to know four-year boatmate Gavin White), coached at Temple and then Vesper, where 32 of his charges made the US team and 18 became Olympians, including six (among them his future wife Sue) that he joined as coach on the 1976 US Olympic team.
Hooten (behind Gavin White wearing glasses) with Temple teammates last year
Throughout Hooten published cartoons in the National Association of Amateur Oarsmen (NAAO) publication, which of course brought Hooten more renown than his coaching achievements; such is celebrity. Both my brother and I had Hooten's Who's In Bow book of cartoons, and remember most of them; Hooten's drawings ranged from minimalist line drawings pared down in service of the punchline to detailed drawings that, well, also worked in service of the punchline.
There were plenty of folks who felt the same; here is Mike Davenport's remembrance of his first encounter with Hooten's cartoons as a new walk-on in college: Osgood Used To Row…A Debt Owed To John Hooten.
In recent years Hooten focused on coaching swimming, and still again affected a ton of young people; the photo below has enough of them to make the point, and note Hooten at the top of the photo with a pith helmet and a chicken tie.
Hooten (top row wearing pith helmet and chicken tie) with The Barracudas swim team
Johnson Ranch Barracuda Swim Team coach Kim Briggs shared the following with row2k (the swim team held a packed poolside vigil for John that Kim references):
"Coach John Hooten has influenced so many people within our swim community, that exceeds the pool deck at Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville, CA. Each team, and the supportive swim families within those teams that the Barracudas competed against, were also influenced by this magnificent man.
"One awesome memory is how the team cheers, lead by Coach John, were often videotaped not only by the Barracuda families, but others at the event that day, who were also significantly inspired by how Coach John reached each and every person at the venue.
"We realize that our swim community is only one piece of the Brilliant Puzzle John Hooten developed. The Rowing Families, the Scout Families, Friends and Neighbors who had the privilege of knowing him. Each of us feeling his support and encouragement to always to our very best!"
Barracudas coach Jenn Soto added "We are deeply saddened by the loss of John. I just started coaching for the Barracudas in October of last year which is when I met John. He had a strong impact on me the moment I met him. I was looking forward to having him on deck with me this season."
Read more comments from the swim club here.
I did not know John Hooten, but knowing his influence inside rowing, that Hooten meant so much to communities outside rowing tells us absolutely a ton about the man.
Oh yeah, he also made handmade nail puzzles that he gave to family, friends, and even opposing coaches; Hooten was one of a kind for sure; the world, and not just the rowing world, will miss you, John Hooten.
A memorial for John will be held on Friday March 16 at 10:30am at the Bayside Church in Granite Bay CA; address is 8191 Sierra College Blvd, Roseville, CA 95661.
There is also a tentative plan for a memorial on the Schuylkill River this spring; we will update as information becomes available.