Perry Timothy Jecko: Actor and Olympic Swimmer

Perry Timothy “Tim” Jecko, 66, an actor on Broadway and in regional productions and a member of the 1956 U.S. Olympic swim team, died Jan. 11 at his home in Madison, N.J. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, 18 months ago.

Born in Washington and raised in Bethesda, Mr. Jecko began swimming as a young teenager for the Amateur Athletic Union at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center pool and at Edgemoor Country Club in Bethesda. Until restricted by failing health, he continued weekly swim workouts.

He attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and Hotchkiss Preparatory School in Lakeville, Conn., and graduated from the drama school at Yale University, where he was captain of the varsity swim team. He won no Olympic medals, but in subsequent years, he held world, U.S. and NCAA records.

In a 1992 letter to the editor and a 1996 op-ed article for the New York Times, he reviewed his Olympic experience and urged the public to give up its fixation on gold medals.

“I made the Olympic team four years later [in 1956], and had the thrill of swimming at the Games in Melbourne, Australia. Not the thrill of victory — I didn’t win a medal. But not the agony of defeat either. As a reserve on the 800-meter freestyle relay team, I helped qualify the United States for the finals, and then four faster swimmers took over to win a silver medal,” he noted.

After his military service in the Navy’s 7th Fleet, he began a professional life that included both acting and teaching.

Mr. Jecko performed on Broadway in “Annie” and in “Woman of the Year” with Raquel Welch. He appeared in primetime and daytime television programs and in network television commercials. Until shortly before his illness, he continued to act in regional theater.

As deputy director of performing arts for the Smithsonian Institution, Mr. Jecko developed national and international performances, including U.S. entries in the cultural festival of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. He wrote articles for the performing arts journals Spectacle and the White Tops. He was a contributing editor for the recently published Encyclopedia of New Jersey.

Until his illness made it necessary to retire, Mr. Jecko was teaching writing and communication skills to undergraduate and graduate students at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

His marriages to Mary Louise Long and Margaret Oksner ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, JoAnn Jecko of Madison; two sons from his first marriage, Christopher Jecko of Hamden, Conn., and Nicholas Jecko of Chatham, N.J.; a daughter from his second marriage, Sarah Jecko of Madison; and a brother, Michael Jecko of Rockville.

Published January 15, 2005. Written by Patricia Sullivan, Washington Post Staff Writer