Father-and-son swim team share benefits of active lifestyle

February 2, 2020

Chuck Rynkowski, who grew up in the Wilmington neighborhood of Browntown, says his favorite childhood memory was swimming in the nearby creeks with his pals. He remembers that swimming in his youth was all about beating the other guy. 

“At the YMCA, boys asked me to swim next to them because I would outpace them,” he said.

He became a YMCA member in Wilmington when he was 12 years old. Today, at age 94, he swims three days a week with his son Rick at the Sussex Academy Aquatic Center in Georgetown. 

“Dad is dressed, ready to go, and standing in his driveway with his walker when I arrive at 5 a.m. to begin our 5:30 a.m. swim,” boasts son Rick.

Rick, who started the Caesar Rodney swim team, was one of the first people to join the aquatic center when it opened to the public in April 2017. At age 65, he competes in triathlons and open-water events such as the Chesapeake Bay Swim. 

“What do you buy a 94-year-old for his birthday or for Christmas?” Rick laughs. “I wanted to swim. I knew he missed it, so I invited him to join me. Since I’m not ready to get out of the lap lane when he is, I asked instructor Maria Edgerton if she would give him private lessons.” 

Maria said, “Chuck has become part of our SAAC family. My mornings with him are filled with amazement about his past life stories. And they are always filled with lots of laughter. Other swimmers in the pool have commented that they have noticed Chuck's increase in flexibility.”

Rick said that when his dad gets in the car after a workout, he complains, “’Maria really worked on my calves today and my knees, too.’ But then he grins and says, ‘But I love it!’”

Chuck, who is widowed and lives independently, keeps his wife’s picture on the kitchen counter and talks to her every day. His son lives close by. 

Maria welcomes a huge number of swimmers who are in their 60s and 70s and beyond. "We always advocate at the aquatic center that the water has many more benefits than just physical. Just as important is the emotional and social benefits that it provides. The stress release and the social connections built with others can not be underestimated,” she said. 

“If 94-year-old Chuck, who wakes up before dawn, who has had two strokes and gets around with a walker, can do it, what excuse do the rest of us have not to do the same?" 

Chuck Rynkowski has been made an honorary lifetime member of the aquatic center. His blue eyes light up when he tells me: “Fitness is a family lifestyle. It motivates me, feels good, and takes me back to my youth. The bottom line is that If I didn’t get this help to keep swimming, I would have been gone by now. This way I get to hang around and torment my son.”

For information about classes and private lessons at Sussex Academy Aquatic Center in Georgetown, contact Maria Edgerton Reed, aquatics coordinator, at 302-856-7805 or visit

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