Remembering Midwest water ski legend Dean Chappell (1951-2024)
Chappell was a tenacious competitor who excelled in the jump event (image: @skihusband)
By Jack Burden
The water skiing community is mourning the loss of a dedicated and beloved member, Dean Chappell. A stalwart volunteer, coach, and cherished figure within Illinois water skiing circles, Chappell’s impact on the sport and the community will be enduringly remembered.
An avid three-event skier, Chappell holds the Midwest region jump records for Men’s 5-8 and the Illinois state overall records for Men’s 5, 6 & 8. As recently as last year, he set a pending Men’s 8 (70-74 years) regional jump record at an impressive 111 feet (33.8m).
Representing the U.S. on numerous occasions, Chappell clinched first place in Over-65 Men’s Jump and won gold as part of the U.S. team at the 2018 Over-35 World Championships in Santiago, Chile. This achievement led to the well-deserved recognition of the team as the USA-WSWS Team of the Year.
Chappell’s commitment to water skiing transcended the ordinary. Despite a challenging moment where he broke his neck while jumping, he continued competing well into his 70s. As one of the original Midwest Air Force jumpers, Chappell’s legacy is synonymous with tenacity and a driving force for the growth of water skiing in the region.
His influence extended far beyond his personal achievements. As a Senior-rated driver, judge, and technical controller, Chappell was always ready to contribute at tournaments, generously sharing his knowledge and passion. In the collegiate realm, he served as a coach and mentor for the Illini Waterski Team, leaving a lasting impact on numerous young skiers. His dedication was further evident in hosting and officiating at countless MCWSA Regionals and other collegiate events.
The Chappell family remains an integral part of the tournament waterskiing scene in the Midwest. Kelly and Troy Zoellner, Chappell’s daughter and son-in-law, along with grandchildren Jaret and Julia Zoellner, continue to be actively involved with the PITS Water Ski Club in Decatur, Illinois.
Dean Chappell’s legacy lives on not just in records and achievements but in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to know and ski alongside him. He will be profoundly missed, and his contributions to the water skiing community will be remembered with gratitude and fondness.