Swimmer Spotlight – Ron Nakata 6

Name:                    Ron Nakata
Age:                       80
Occupation:        Retired Dentist
Local Team:         REIGN (Oregon Reign Masters/Mount Hood Aquatics)


Ron Nakata and his wife of 55 years, Wanda

Ron Nakata and his wife of 55 years, Wanda

I was born in Portland, Oregon, and my early childhood years occurred when the US went to war with Japan in 1941.  I was three years old when my family was interned in Heart Mountain, Wyoming.  Because my father was fluent in both Japanese and English, the US government hired him to instruct naval intelligence officers in the Japanese language.  As a result of this, we were released from the camp in six months and we moved to Boulder, Colorado, so my father could fulfill this obligation.  Others in the camps were interned for much longer.

When the war ended, we returned to Portland to create some semblance of normal life.  As a kid growing up, you don’t think about much except school, summer vacations, sports, and staying out of trouble.  I was always involved in sports, and could do a lot of things, but I was not exceptional in any one.  I learned how to swim at the YMCA around age 8.  I remember a young black boy telling me he had athlete’s foot.  I thought I must have it because I’m an athlete.  Little did I know!!.

After competing in high school basketball (winning the state championship in 1956) and baseball (making it to the finals in 1957), swimming and golf became my primary activities.  I joined the high school swim team as a freshman, and from there I was asked to join the Aero Club of Oregon for formal training.  Don Schollander was a member before moving to Santa Clara.  After high school I swam and competed for the University of Oregon.  My best events were butterfly and IM.

In the mid 1960’s after college, I spent three years in Washington, D.C., with a career in the foreign intelligence service training to be a covert case officer in southeast Asia, (Vietnam).  It was there that I met my future wife, Wanda, a native Floridian who also worked in the foreign service.  Because assignments required separation of spouses, we resigned and decided to move back to Portland in 1966.  Now what?

My father was a dentist, so I figured why not give it a try.  After two years of meeting prerequisite courses, I was accepted into dental school.  My father passed away at age 60 from stomach cancer, a year before I graduated.  I inherited a busy practice that was maintained by a volunteer dentist.  I did this for 34 years before retiring.

I’m still married to my wonderful wife Wanda after 55 years.  She has been my biggest supporter, putting me through school by working in a law firm, and later on running her own travel agency.  The great thing about retirement is that I have more time for swimming and my other passion, golf.  My handicap ranged from 1-6 most of my golfing career, but my mental expectations are being overrun by older physical limitations!  I did win two national senior golf association tournaments in Miami, FL, and Pinehurst, NC.  I also participated in a 72-hole amateur tournament at Pebble Beach, CA, in 1993.

I’ve continued swimming more and more regularly as I’ve grown older.  Swimming is a lifelong activity that’s not only healthful but a great reliever of stress.  Any semblance of my health I can attribute to swimming and the great friendships encountered along the way.


Ron Nakata was one of the original Masters swimmers in Oregon in the early 1970’s. He has 108 individual USMS Top 10 rankings and 24 relay USMS Top 10 rankings.  At the Gil Young LCM meet in August, 2019, he set a zone record in the 200 IM and a National record in the 320-359 mixed medley relay with Joy Ward, Margaret Toppel, and Willard Lamb.  Congratulations Ron!

Ron has been the family dentist of a number of OMS members

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6 thoughts on “Swimmer Spotlight – Ron Nakata

  • Peter Metzger

    Ron, Peter Metzger here, I also started my swimming career at the Aero Club with Tye Steinbeck as my coach. That would have been the year, 1965. Tye was a very good coach,he was loved by his swimmers and had a large swim team who’s big rival at the time was the Mac Club, coached by Olive Mucha.

  • Gary Underhill

    Ron, you still look the same as you did in Dental School when we commuted in that Volkswagen with Wanda chewing us out for being late!
    She hasn’t changed either. Send your contact info – we would love to chat!

    • Ronald K Nakata

      Here’s hoping you see this. It only took me a year to google myself when I saw your post. I don’t have any kids to help me navigate all the stuff that cell phones do. Hope you and Glenda are well and if you’re in Portland, please call us.

  • Millie Mansfield

    How wonderful! Ron I met you with Wanda in 1970
    When she worked at Meier and Frank selling scarf clips. I stayed at your home one night and you made us fried rice! Please give her my best. Millie Mansfield.