William C. Jimeson, runner and founder of the Baltimore Olympic Club, dies

William C. Jimeson, who for decades was known as “Mr. Track in Baltimore” for his knowledge of track and field and was the founder of the Baltimore Olympic Club, died Jan. 19 at Flagler Hospital in Palm Isle, Fla. of complications from melanoma.

The longtime Randallstown resident was 97.

“He was a legend around here. He knew track in and out,” said Joe Hemler, a Bel Air resident who said Mr. Jimeson took him “under his wing” in the sport after Mr. Hemler graduated from high school in 1952.

“He was a tough competitor who fought for every inch,” Mr. Hemler said. “He had a memory like no other. He could recall meets, times and your splits from 20 years ago.”

William C. Jimeson was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Wilkinsburg, Pa. He was the son of Wilbur C. Jimeson, an insurance agent, and Betty H. Jimeson, a homemaker.

He was a graduate of Wilkinsburg High School and attended Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pa., for a year.

He was a 1942 graduate of Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in business. While a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University, he won the Mason-Dixon conference championship in the 440-yard dash and the hurdles.

Because of bad eyesight, Mr. Jimeson was turned down for the Army and spent World War II working at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. in Middle River.

In the late 1940s, he taught in Baltimore County public schools; he was a physical education instructor at Hamilton Junior High School before taking a job with Calvert Distillers. The company transferred him to its Alexandria, La., office near New Orleans.

Eventually, he returned to Baltimore, where he worked for nearly three decades as a publisher’s representative for Allyn & Bacon Publishing Co. He retired from there in 1979.

Mr. Jimeson founded the Baltimore Olympic Club in 1946, whose origins dated to the old Baltimore Club, and later started the All-Eastern Invitational track meet with Dutch Leidig.

For more than two decades until 1967, he coached the club’s track teams, whose members had run track in high school or college.

“Bill maps all schedules, signs members, manages to attend about one meet a week on the average, handles all travel details and collects entry fees,” The Evening Sun reported in a 1954 profile regarding his work with the Baltimore Olympic Club.

“Everyone pays his own way ... but frequently Bill has to advance cash from his own pocket,” according to the profile. “He also serves as an ex-officio coach, and teammates swear by his uncanny power to earn them points by correctly gauging their ability and that of foes and then spotting them in their proper races.”

“Running was the biggest thing in his life,” said his wife of 72 years, the former Margaret Baker, a Baltimore public schools elementary art teacher.

In a 1973 article, The Evening Sun described Mr. Jimeson as a “physical fitness fanatic.”

“From 1949 until he quit as co-director in 1962, he did everything for the All-Eastern except sell programs, even competing in it until he was nearly 40,” reported The Evening Sun.

“I remember how Bill would travel anywhere that there was a track meet, indoor or outdoor. He took us to New York, Toronto, Buffalo, New Haven, Philadelphia and Boston to name a few,” Mr. Hemler wrote in an email.

“Remember, this was in the ’50s and ’60s, and Bill would use his car and hardly ever take any money for gas, even though it may have only been 89 cents a gallon,” he wrote. “On one trip to Buffalo at 2 a.m. the car broke down on a lonely US 15 in ‘Nowhere, N.Y.’ Having diagnosed the problem as a bad capacitor, Charley Wagner and I jogged a mile or so to an all-night gas station where we were able to get a capacitor and we were on our way again.”

Mr. Jimeson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1952, “but only slightly then,” he told The Evening Sun.

Because of his illness, he retired fom active competition in 1954, leaving behind an impressive record. In 21 meets, he recorded 70 first-place finishes — 20 out of 23 races in his “banner season of 1946,” reported The Evening Sun in 1954.

He had 55 second-place finishes and 78 thirds over that period. In cross-county he was less successful, netting a handful of second- and third-place finishes in 63 efforts.

“It’s always been my ambition to win a cross-country race,” he said, “but I never have.”

In 1965, again afflicted with multiple sclerosis, he defied prevailing medical advice to continue a workout schedule. His vigorous regimen included exercising in a pool three days a week. He worked with weights three days a week in the basement of his Randallstown home.

“In those days, anyone other than kids who exercised was considered nuts,” Mr. Jimeson said in the 1973 interview.

“Listen, those doctors who told me not to exercise are now dead,” he said. “Exercise — that’s why I’m around today. Most people with multiple sclerosis wither up and die. Near the end, they can’t lift a spoon…. I’m not 100 percent but I’m here, aren’t I?”

Mr. Jimeson completed daily runs around his yard — 150 yards per lap — rode a bike in good weather and, when weather was poor, used an exercise bike in his basement workout room.

Interested in swimming as well as track and field, Mr. Jimeson was among the founders of the Metropolitan League, which in 1973 merged with the Suburban and Chesapeake leagues to become the Central Maryland Swim League.

After Mr. Jimeson stepped down from the Baltimore Olympic Club in 1973, it continued for a few more years, Mr. Hemler said.

In 1979, Mr. Jimeson retired and moved to South Point Vedra, Fla., where he became chief of Station 9 of the South Point Vedra Volunteer Fire Department.

“He brought the first woman into the department,” his wife said.

Mr. Jimeson enjoyed reading and listening to big band music.

“I made a list of five people who influenced me the most in life’s endeavors, and Bill Jimeson remains No. 1,” wrote Ellsworth Boyd, of White Hall, in an email. He said Mr. Jimeson had been his “coach, mentor and friend for 72 years.”

“He remains a highlight of my life, and I cherish the days I spent with him and kept in touch even though we were miles apart,” Mr. Boyd wrote. “I shall miss him and never forget what he did for me.”

In recent years, Mr. Jimeson lived at Allegro Senior Living, 1101 Plantation Island Drive South, St. Augustine, where a celebration of life service will be held at 3 p.m. Feb. 10.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Barbara Dian Jimeson of St. Augustine; a grandson; and two great-grandchildren. His son, William C. Jimeson Jr., died in 1978.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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