Maurice Lefèbvre

Today on Oldest Olympians we are looking at a mystery where we believe that we know all of the potential avenues for its resolution, but can only take a reasonable guess on which one is correct. It concerns Maurice Lefèbvre, a water polo player for the French national team who represented his country at two editions of the summer Olympics. This is about all that we can say about him with confidence.

According to the Olympic reports, a Maurice Lefèbvre represented France in the water polo tournaments at the 1936 Berlin and 1948 London Olympics, where the nation placed fourth and sixth respectively. The only other fact that we know about his life was that he was a member of Enfants de Neptune de Tourcoing and that all sources gives his year of birth as 1913.

Beyond this is where the questions arise: some sources have his date of birth as December 30, other have October 1. Some spell his surname Lefèbvre, others spell it Lefèvre. The French Swimming Federation added to the confusion by listing a Maurice Lefè(b)vre under both names, but only a year of birth. Under the Lefèbvre spelling, they listed a date of death of January 1, 2014, which would have made him 100 years old. Under the Lefèvre spelling, he was listed with a date of death of October 1, 2013, which would have made him 99.

Our best guess, therefore, was that information had been muddled somewhere and that “January 1, 2014” was a placeholder year signaling “deceased, date unknown” and that October 1, 2013 was the correct date. Recently, however, the French Swimming Federation merged the two entries together, and now the Olympian is listed under the spelling Lefèbvre with the January 1, 2014 date.

With the recent release of the French Death Index, we set out to solve this issue once and for all. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we did not find any Maurice Lefè(b)vre who died in 2013 or 2014 that would match the Olympian. There was, however, Maurice Alfred Lefèbvre born on October 30, 1913 in Tourcoing who died May 24, 1983 in Tourcoing.

This would seem to solve the mystery, as it combines all the data points we had into one likely suspect. Unfortunately, without a full obituary, we are unable to confirm that this is the Olympian. Nonetheless, since we see so much different information online regarding Lefèbvre, and particularly since most of that data points towards him being among the Oldest Olympians, we thought that we would gather it in one place so that readers could get a better sense of where it all comes from.

William Jones

Today on Oldest Olympians we have an Olympic medal mystery of a different kind. It concerns William Jones, a bronze medal-winning rower from Uruguay about whom we have been able to uncover only limited information.

(William Jones, pictured second from the right, from the website of the Uruguayan President’s office)

At the 1948 London Games, Jones paired up with Juan Rodríguez in the double sculls, an Olympian who we covered on this site in the past because he lived to the age of 91. They were a relatively unheralded duo entering the event, but nonetheless managed to leave it with a bronze medal. While much is known about Rodríguez, all we know about Jones is that at some point he moved to Florida, where he was living in 2003 when he and Rodríguez were honored for their Olympic accomplishments.

On April 7, 2014, an anonymous user on Wikipedia added the sentence “William Jones is now living in Citrus County Florida with his wife of 53yrs” to his biography, which aligns with the update from 2003. On August 9 of that year, a different anonymous user added the information that Jones had died on August 7.

The fact that a William Jones of Inverness, Florida died August 7, 2014 at his home is supported by an obituary. Unfortunately, the obituary is far too brief and lacking in details to confirm that it belongs to the Olympian. Another anonymous edit in January 2016 claimed that he was born in 1925 in the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, this information has proven insufficient to locate him in public records, let alone to confirm that the individual who died in August 2014 was the Olympian. While we believe that this is quite likely the truth, we cannot confirm it, and until someone can provide additional information, this will remain an Olympic mystery.

Kalle Nieminen

For today’s Olympic mystery, we are looking into a case forwarded to us by Harri Piironen: Karl Maurits “Kalle” Nieminen. Nieminen had a successful amateur career in athletics, but his only appearance at the Olympics came at the 1908 London Games. There, he competed in the marathon and placed 10th out of 55 starters.

The first half of Nieminen’s life was relatively typical for an amateur athlete of that era, although he did not start competing in distance running until he was 25 years old. He soon displayed proficiency at longer distances, however, and set a Finnish national record for the 10,000 metres in 1905. Two years later he made his international début for Finland, before being selected to represent that nation at the London Games. After one more year of amateur competition, he travelled to the United States to embark upon a professional career.

Nieminen’s stint as a professional was brief but, soon after it ended, he landed a job as an athletics coach at Columbia University. He became a citizen of the United States in the 1910s while living in New York, and this is where the mystery begins. Nieminen visited his sister in the early 1920s, after which he was never heard from again in Finland. In 1971 he was declared dead in absentia, but the details of his later life became an important question in Finnish sports research.

Eventually, it was discovered that he had died in the United States around 1946, but no other information was available at the time. Oldest Olympians took on this mystery, but did not got much further, discovering only that he eventually moved to Arlington, Vermont and was still alive in 1942 when he was registered for the draft during World War II. Noted Olympic researcher (and fencing Olympian!) George Masin then discovered that he may have had a son and that his wife Maria may have died on December 17, 1951 and been buried in Finland.

Unfortunately, however, no one has yet been able to uncover an exact date or place of death for Kalle. It seems likely that he died in either 1946 or 1947, and that this happened in Vermont, but without any evidence from after 1942, we cannot be sure. We wanted to post about this not only in the hopes that someone might be able to uncover a missing piece of the puzzle, but because many websites still list his year of death as 1971, which is incorrect.

Eugene R. Rogers

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover a case that we have talked about in the past, albeit not in depth, and share some new information that has come to light that, unfortunately, did not resolve the issue conclusively. Our subject of the day is American swimmer Eugene Roy Rogers, born February 17, 1924.

(Rogers pictured at the Columbia Lions Hall of Fame)

Rogers was a member of the American 4×200 metres freestyle relay squad that took gold at the 1948 London Olympics, although he only raced in the opening round and not in the final and thus did not receive a physical medal, per the rules at the time. He had an outstanding swimming career at Columbia University, where he earned an engineering degree, and has been inducted into their Athletics Hall of Fame. If he were alive, then he would be the oldest living Olympic champion in swimming and the oldest living American Olympic champion.

For a long time, Rogers was listed as having died on April 26, 2004, but multiple sources, including his own family, confirm that this was an error, and that the Eugene Rogers who died on that date was a different individual. Nonetheless, many sources continue to reproduce this mistake.

Then, in January of 2018, someone claiming to be his grandson on Wikipedia listed him as having died on December 30, 2017 in Long Island, New York. We here at Oldest Olympians are not intrinsically distrustful of Wikipedia, but since he had had an incorrect date of death attributed to him previously, we wanted to be extra careful. When we were unable to contact the user or locate an obituary, we decided against listing him as deceased and have featured him on Oldest Olympians previously as if he were living, albeit with the proper caveats. Furthermore, the United States Olympic Committee was of the belief that he was still alive.

Recently, however, researcher and historian Hilary Evans has located an Ancestry Family Tree that listed a Eugene Roy Rogers, born 1924, as having died in 2017 in Glen Cove, New York, which was where he was last known to be living. Unfortunately, there was still no corroborating, definitive proof, but it now seems likely enough that he is deceased, and therefore we have removed him from our list. Given the uncertainty, however, we felt that it was appropriate to announce this removal with a blog post to avoid creating another mysterious disappearance.

Finally, on a small side note of speaking about sudden removals, we have just learned that Geoffrey Tudor, born December 29, 1923, who represented Great Britain in the 3,000 metres steeplechase at the 1948 London Games, died October 2, 2018 at the age of 94. As this happened some time ago, we are noting this information here to explain his removal from our tables.

Oldest Olympians From Saar

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to post a follow-up to our last blog entry, where we discussed individuals removed from our list after we discovered that they had been deceased for a lengthy period of time. As it happens, only two days later, we were informed of another individual who fit in this category and who happened to be the oldest living Olympian from his participating country: Klaus Hahn of Saar.

(Hahn pictured in February 2014)

Hahn, born December 4, 1925, represented Saar during its brief period as an independent protectorate. A rower, he took part in the coxless pairs at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he came in third in his round one heat and then failed to complete the repêchage when he collapsed from exhaustion. He and his partner Herbert Kesel were second at the German national championships the following year. We featured him as the oldest living competitor from Saar last December on what we believed to be his 94th birthday, but today we learned from historian and researcher Ralf Regnitter that Hahn had actually died on July 10 2019 in Lacanau, Gironde, France, at the age of 93.

(Walter Müller)

This new information means that gymnast Walter Müller, born December 31, 1930, is now the oldest living Olympian to have represented Saar, and is in fact one of only two remaining alive. The other, his gymnastics teammate Heinz Ostheimer, was born on September 15, 1931. Together they placed 22nd out of 23 nations in the team all-around, while Müller was 143rd individually. His best individual finish was joint-106th in the horizontal bars and he later competed at the 1954 World Championships. While he is “only” 89, and thus a little too young to be featured on Oldest Olympians, we did want to discuss him in some manner given the circumstances, and thus we figured he was an appropriate subject for a blog.

That is all we have for today and we are – at least until the end of this week – caught up with the backlog of our blog entries! Nonetheless, we hope to bring you something new soon, so we hope that you will join us!