From his days as a star on the swim teams of Bloomington Lincoln High School and the University of Minnesota to a beloved coach at west metro clubs and high schools, Tim Daly left a network of coaches, teammates and swimmers who mourned his Christmas Eve death.
Daly, 58, lived three years longer than expected after his diagnosis of advanced esophageal and colon cancer in 2013.
Daly was rarely far from his passion — the water and swimmers — beginning in the 1970s. For the past three years, he coached the Mound-Westonka-Holy Family High School girls’ team. He was on the pool deck for practice and meets through three years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He worked through the 2016 fall season.
Senior captain Ryann Beyer, 18, was there for Daly’s final pep talk. He went through the list of events for sectionals. Beyer said through tears on Monday that Daly told the girls they were capable of creating a “magical story line.”
Like so many other current and former swimmers, Beyer said she considered Daly a close friend. “Everyone felt so connected to him,” she said. “He made you feel so special. You felt like you could move mountains with his confidence in you.”
His sister Cindy Kelsey said, “This was his passion. He was a simple man. He loved being outside and being with children.”
At the now-closed Lincoln High School, Daly specialized in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, finishing at or near the top in both at state meets. Summers, Daly worked as a lifeguard at Bush Lake Beach in Bloomington. He took his first coaching job as an assistant to Tim Firstbrook at Minnetonka in 1982.
The following year, Daly became head coach, creating a championship juggernaut at the high school and building the Mach 3 Flyers, a local club team.
Firstbrook swam with Daly, coached with him and coached against him. “So much of what he did was beyond being on the pool deck,” Firstbrook said. “He loved the swimmers.”
Daly also made it a point to know people in his community — from the workers at the grocery store to his caregivers at the hospital. He shoveled driveways in the neighborhood and secretly added to the fairy garden of a young neighbor girl, telling her only recently that he was the culprit.
Kelsey said her younger brother, the fifth of nine children, didn’t care to talk about his cancer or accept help. She recalled that recently she was about to get up from sitting on the floor when her brother offered to give her a hand. “I want to help you up while I still can,” she recalled him saying.
Daly loved to talk about other sports, too, and he followed the Minnesota Vikings. His Sunday routine involved hosting friends in his garage to watch the games. He orchestrated the final gathering on Dec. 11 when the Vikings beat the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He was up and doing everything through Thanksgiving,” Kelsey said. “To look at him, you would not have known. He was strong and determined.”
Dan Endy’s connection to Daly began when he was a freshman on the Gophers team and Daly a senior. They stayed in touch through swimming alumni circles.
After Daly’s death, Endy was among those who posted tributes on social media. “If God needs someone to anchor — or coach — his 800 Free Relay team, Tim might just be a good choice,” Endy wrote. “On the other hand, if God needs someone to give us all a lesson in how to die with dignity, grace and absolute, unequivocal selflessness, then Tim would be the BEST choice.”
Daly is survived by his three children: Hannah, Sarah and Andrew; his parents Terry and Rita Daly, and eight siblings.
A funeral mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of the Lake, 2385 Commerce Blvd., Mound. Visitation will be Thursday from 4-8 p.m. and an hour before mass Friday.