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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 963


This is the grave of Jack Shea.

Born in 1910 in Lake Placid, New York, Shea grew up with the snow and ice. This isolated region of far upstate New York was no picnic when it came to winter weather, but with the development of competitive sports, it also became home to some of the best winter sports in the U.S. That was Shea’s childhood, being outside and playing competitive winter sports. Shea graduated from Dartmouth and attended law school for awhile. But the Great Depression hit and he left school in order to support his family back in Lake Placid.

In 1932, Shea not only made the U.S. Olympic team as a speed skater, but he won two gold medals at the Winter Olympics, conveniently in his home town of Lake Placid. He won the 500 and 1500 meter races. He was going to compete again in 1936, in Germany. But, seemingly a decent sort, he decided against it after a rabbi he knew said it would be better to boycott an event held in Nazi Germany.

Shea went on to see his son and grandson become Olympians as well, the first family to ever have three generations compete in the Winter Olympics. His son Jim was in the Nordic combined and cross-country skiing events in Innsburck in 1964. His grandson was in the 2002 skeleton in Salt Lake and won the gold. Shea was also involved in the 1980 Winter games in Lake Placid, lighting the cauldron at the speed skating oval where he won in 32.

However, Shea did not live to see his grandson compete. That’s because a drunk driver coming the other way on some lonely back road up in northern New York crossed the line and hit his car, killing him 17 days before his grandson competed. He was 91 years old.

Jack Shea is buried in Saint Agnes Cemetery, Lake Placid, New York.

If you would like this series to visit other American speed skaters, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Charles Jewtraw, who won the gold in 1924, is in North Elba, New York and Ken Henry, who won gold in 1952, is in Chicago. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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