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Dean Hall to finish Willamette River swim

Family and friends celebrated Gresham swimmer on Portland waterfront


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Standing among supporters, friends and family, Hall smiles for a camera on the Portland waterfront.Soaked by a muggy summer rain, friends and family swarmed swimmer Dean Hall as he stepped onto the Portland waterfront around 7 p.m. Wednesday after completing one of the last legs of his 184-mile swim.

Hall was followed in by his 79-year-old father, Dick Hall, who paddled alongside his son the entire way.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Dean Hall stands at the edge of the dock at Willamette Park ready to to begin his swim, along with his 79-year-old father in the canoe.Among a handful of supporters hooting and hollering from the shoreline and waving Popsicle-stick hand signs donning Dean’s face was Hall’s daughter, Bre, his mother, Alice, friends from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and Willamette Riverkeeper’s executive director, Travis Williams.

But while smiling and hugging those around them, the 54-year-old Gresham man appeared calm and humbled rather than outwardly victorious.

Perhaps the river does have an effect on those who swim it.

Hall seems to enjoy swimming like no one’s watching.

A media helicopter hovered above him as Hall made his way on a 2.5-mile swim from Willamette Park.

The river remained quiet as he passed under bridges noisy with traffic.

Stephen Cridland, a photographer inspired to document Hall’s swim, followed behind in his yacht, carrying an Outlook reporter.

Passing boats waved the swimmer on, and onlookers yelled, “Go Dean!” from high-rise balconies along the river.

A paddle boarder circled Hall and his father’s kayak, exchanging hellos, and a Portland dragon boat crew, rowing beside the pair, cheered them in unison.

Hall has just 12 miles left to go.

Swimming from Tom McCall Park in Portland to Cathedral Park in St. Johns on Thursday, Hall completes his journey to the confluence of the Columbia River today.

Diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma, Hall will be the first person in history to swim the entire length of the Willamette River.

The Gresham therapist has been raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, asking donations for every mile he swims.

Bre Hall, Dean’s 21-year-old daughter and an aspiring creative writer, said it was awesome and cool that her dad is swimming the river.

Alice Hall, who has acted as “shuttle bunny” on her son’s nearly month-long journey, said it’s been a real adventure.

While Dean is on the river, she said she’s enjoyed driving around and getting to know the little country roads along the Willamette.

“We live in a wonderful part of the country,” she said.

Warning: Dean’s dad is a real jokester.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Double cancer patient Dean Hall, 54, began his 2.5-mile swim into Portland City Center on Wednesday evening, June 25.On the dock before Wednesday’s swim, Dick Hall was packing his kayak, which he nicknamed “Madelin” after the old song “Paddlin’ Madelin Home.”

Zipping up the back of his son’s wetsuit, he said, “Do not let your son talk you into something as foolish as this.”

Dick Hall paid his dues as a member of the Mazamas for 50 years.

In his prime, he received the Portland mountaineering club’s honorable “16-peak” award for climbing to the top of 16 Northwest mountain peaks.

Like his son, he also was a marathon runner.

Of his three kids, he said Dean was the one who loved the outdoors the most.

“He has been a big inspiration for the little old fat guy,” Dick said on a more serious note.

Sitting on the dock before his swim, Dean Hall tells his friend, Marisa Frieder, about the previous day’s experience in the river.

A lover of swimming living in Portland with, ironically, a background in infectious disease research, Frieder started Portland’s bridge to bridge swim a couple years ago.

She said a lot of time and money has gone into cleaning up the river and she was eager to challenge people’s perspective that the river is too polluted to swim.

“I wasn’t going to get in unless the water was safe,” she said.

Frieder connected with Hall when she learned he wanted to swim the Willamette.

The two have related ever since.

“It kind of changes your life when you’re out there,” she said.

Standing barefoot, his wetsuit marred by 170-something miles of river terrain, Hall said to his friend, “One of the most beautiful things is that I’ve spent a lot of time just listening to the river.”

He said, “It has been so healing.”

Hall and his family and friends will celebrate his 184-mile accomplishment Friday night with a well-earned meal at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Portland.



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