The legendary swimming coach leaves a legacy, memories

Robert Scott McKinnon accomplished a lot in his 84 years on this Earth.

And he wasn’t even done.

Only esophageal cancer stopped him. Beloved competitive swimmer, swim coach, banjo picker, accomplished writer, playwright and high school English teacher at CM Russell High School, who also raised greyhounds, lost a courageous battle with illness last Thursday, July 7th.

“He was working on a radio play about Haunted Aquarium Castle right up until the very end … about three days before he passed,” said Susie McKinnon, his wife of 62 years. “He was at the computer; wanted to do this radio play.

“He never, ever gave up…he was reaching out there to grab the brass ring, I guess.”

The former Suzanne Cook was by his side, buckled in for the entire journey, which began when they met when Bob was producing a one-act play for a pageant at the University of Montana. Their 62-year marriage brought son Christopher and daughter Wendy along for the ride. And yes, they were buttoned up too.

This describes the marriage of Bob and Susie McKinnon. She was all in—including when Bob and his father, Gus, discussed building a pool in their backyard to give swimming lessons.


“Bob and Gus had done a test run at the old Holiday Inn pool (on 10th Avenue South between 14th and 15th Streets) just to see if there would be a market for it,” Susie recalled. “I got into bookselling, enrolling kids because Bob was busy at school and I was an automatic candidate for the job.

“Oh yes, I was on board. I mean, he’s the super swimmer and he coached the age group swim team and was super successful at it, so it just seemed like a natural progression.”

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