CLEVELAND, Ohio — The 75-year-old Navy dentist who drowned Saturday in Lake Erie while competing in the USA Triathlon died doing what he loved, his son said.
Jim Hix of Claremore, Oklahoma worked as a dentist in the Navy and later for the U.S. Indian Health Service, which is part of the U.S. Department in Health and Human Services, in Oklahoma. He was an avid athlete, competing in dozens of races and triathlons, his son Jason Hix said in a phone interview.
“It’s a sad day but I’m taking some comfort in the fact that he lived a good life, all the way until the end,” Jason Hix said. “He died doing what he enjoyed. He died something he loved to do and was healthy until the end.”
James Hix competed in the swimming portion of the triathlon that drew some 5,000 competitors from across the country. He participated in the 75 to 79 age group of the Olympic-Distance race at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.
Cleveland is hosting the national competition this weekend at Edgewater Beach.
James Hix was the 2017 USA Triathlon Duathlon National Champion in the men’s 75 to 79 age group and he represented the U.S. at the ITU Age Group World Championships as a member of Team USA, the statement says.
He fell unconscious in the lake about 8 a.m. The U.S. Coast Guard pulled his body out of the water, but he never regained consciousness, the Coast Guard said. He was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“Our sport lost a member of its beloved community and we extend our heartfelt condolences to Jim’s wife, Ann, his family and friends,” USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s top multisport athletes in his age group, Jim and USA Triathlon shared a close relationship and his passing is particularly difficult.”
Jason Hix said his father left behind his wife, who traveled with him to Cleveland for the triathlon this weekend, three kids and seven grandchildren.
He remembered his father as quirky and eccentric. He said James Hix had a unique sense-of-humor and would ride his bike to work every day. At one point during his career, his commute consisted of a daily 30-mile ride.
He also collected cans on his bike rides and after most of his races in order to turn them all in on Earth Day to get a bigger payoff.
“He was pretty frugal,” Jason Hix said. “You wouldn’t know he was a dentist by the way he dressed.”
Jason Hix, who now lives in Indiana, said he competed in dozens of triathlons with his father over the years until his own family kept him closer to home.
His father, however, kept competing, even as less and less competitors entered races in his age group.
“He loved competing,” Jason Hix said. “He was always enjoyed winning and was proud of winning.”