• 9 October 1918
  •  Monrovia, California, USA

Velma Dunn


Champion platform diver Velma Dunn was born on October 9, 1918 in Monrovia, California. Her mother was a schoolteacher. Velma took swimming lessons at the YMCA in Pasadena, California and learned how to dive at the Pasadena Athletic Club. Dunn attended the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles, California, which in turn inspired her to compete in Amateur Athletic Union meets with the L.A. Athletic Club. Velma won the junior national championships in diving in 1935 and placed second in the Olympic tryouts the following year. At age seventeen Dunn won the silver medal in the 10 meter platform event at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. A few weeks later Velma enrolled at the University of Southern California as a physical education major. After getting both a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree as well as receiving a teaching credential from USC, Dunn went on to teach physical education at Huntington Park High School. While teaching at Huntington Park High School Velma met swimmer and swimming instructor Howard Ploessel, who she subsequently married in 1943. The Ploessels then moved to San Pedro, California, where Howard taught Army soldiers how to swim at Fort MacArthur and Dunn taught physical education as well as water ballet, synchronized swimming, and lifesaving techniques at San Pedro High. After taking a break from school to have children, Velma resumed teaching in 1953 at South Gate Junior High, where she remained prior to eventually retiring in 1980. Moreover, Dunn retained her ties with the Olympic games later in her life: She not only volunteered for the 1984 L.A. Olympics, but also participated in the torch relay before the 1996, 2000, and 2002 Olympics (she did the latter one at age 83). Velma died on May 8, 2007 after suffering a stroke at age 88 at the Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in Whittier, California. She was survived by daughter Nancy, son Dennis, and grandchildren Bryan, Eric, and Jeremy.