June Darling (née Taylor) Gregory
Born: June 30, 1928
Died: June 27, 2013
U.S. Synchronized Swimming Hall of Fame (1961)
International Swimming Hall of Fame (1991)
As a student at the University of Western Ontario, June Taylor swept away all challengers in the fledgling sport of synchronized swimming.
She dominated the sport in its infancy, winning intercollegiate titles as a solo athlete and in duets with her sister, Gale.
At the 1950 U.S. national swimming championships, Taylor won the solo title in its first appearance on the program. Taylor won the U.S. national indoor title three times representing the Kia Ora Club at her university and a fourth time representing the Hollywood Athletic Club.
Her early success also left her responsibility for promoting the sport, which she did so with great gusto. She was joined by her sister for the first demonstration of duet synchronized swimming at the Pan American Games in Buenos Aires in 1951. They must have made an impression for four years later the sport was included as a medal event at the México City Pan Am Games.
Taylor, accompanied by her longtime coach Lillian (Billie) MacKellar, crisscrossed the United States promoting the sport and conducting clinics. She appeared in an early educational film distributed to schools and also starred in the 1955 film, “Synchronized Swimming Stunts.”
As a professional, Taylor performed in the itinerant Aqua Follies and Fairs in appearances in the U.S. and Canada. She retired from the sport and from performing in 1955. Her later contributions included aiding the disabled in swimming and in developing techniques for water therapy.
In 1952, the syndicated Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons caught a swim show at the Palm Springs Biltmore. “June Taylor made synchronized swimming look so glamorous with her gorgeous swim suits, and her grace. I wonder she hasn’t been tested for movies. She stopped the show.”
Taylor grew up in St. Catharines, Ont, and was a resident of Caledon, Ont., on her death. She graduated from Havergal College and UWO. Later in life, she became a pilot and was an avid fox hunter with the Eglinton and Caledon Hunt.
She was one of the first two athletes inducted into Helm’s Hall of Fame (later known as the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Hall of Fame) in 1961. The International Swimming Hall of Fame inducted her as a pioneer synchronized swimmer 30 years later, describing her as a “gracious champion” known for “graceful performances.”
She leaves John Gregory, her husband of 57 years, a son, two daughters, and three grandchildren. She was predeceased by her sister, Charlotte, known as Gale, Burland (née Taylor), who died at Milton, Ont., in 2007.