By: Molly Congdon '12
Burk Ketcham ’48 was the oldest participant at the FISA World Masters Rowing Championships (held in Belgium Sept. 10-13) at the impressive age of 90.
He is justifiably pleased with his performance.
He competed in two- and four-man boats in the regatta, which included about 3,500 rowers from age 27 and older, and won two medals.
“You only get a medal for first place in these races,” Ketcham said. “I’m the world champion in K2X and the K4X. I was proud to do this at the age of 90.”
Even though Ketcham gave up driving when he felt his vision wasn’t quite up to snuff, he still makes moves on the water. His interest in the sport was sparked many years ago.
“Back around 1979, I saw an article in the Boston Globe—I lived in Cohasset, Massachusetts then—that rowing was a sport that you could keep up in old age,” Ketcham said. “I was 54 at the time and I thought maybe I would give it a try, but at the same time my wife came down with cancer so I decided it wasn’t a good time for me to try something new.”
Sadly, she passed away 10 years later.
“A few years after that I saw another article in the paper about a Cohasset man who liked to teach people how to row, so I got in touch with him and I started rowing. I was 67,”Ketcham said. “I never did this in college. Right after the war there was no rowing at Union, as there is now.”
In 1997, he moved to Seattle and continued to pursue his passion by competing with Seattle clubs. This pastime—since he started competing in the FISA World Masters Rowing Championships back in 2006—has also taken him around the world to places like Scotland, Croatia, Canada, Austria, Poland and Italy.
“Rowing is a great exercise; in a way it can be quite spiritual,” Ketcham said. “I’ve also made a lot of friends all over the world.”