FAIRBORN — Angela Madsen, graduate of Fairborn High School, Marine veteran, and Paralympic medalist, passed away last week during a solo rowing mission from Los Angeles to Honolulu. She was 60 years old.
Her journey aboard her boat, entitled Row of Life, was the subject of an upcoming documentary. Madsen, who had previously completed other ocean rows, was chasing her seventh Guinness World Record as the oldest woman and first paraplegic to row solo across the Pacific Ocean. Madsen had already spent sixty days alone at sea and rowed 1,114 nautical miles. She was about halfway to her destination before she stopped responding to her wife, Debra, the morning of June 21. Madsen’s last message indicated she planned to enter the water to make repairs to her boat, according to a Facebook post made by Debra on June 23.
The US Coast Guard dispatched a search and rescue mission, enlisting the help of German cargo ship Polynesia. The ship found Madsen deceased at approximately 11 p.m. Monday night.
“Angela was a warrior, as fierce as they come,” Debra wrote in a statement. “A life forged by unbelievable hardship, she overcame it all and championed the exact path she envisioned for herself since she was a little girl. To row an ocean solo was her biggest goal. She knew the risks better than any of us and was willing to take those risks because being at sea made her happier than anything else. She told us time and again that if she died trying, that is how she wanted to go.”
Madsen graduated from Fairborn Baker High School with the class of 1978. According to a Facebook message by Fairborn City Schools, she played volleyball while at Baker, when the 1977 team was the Regional Runner-Up in the Ohio District tournament.
Born and raised in a military family, she enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school. In 1993 a back surgery gone wrong left her with a spinal cord injury and paraplegia. She is a four-time World Rowing Championship gold medalist, and competed at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games in rowing. During the London 2012 Games, she competed in Track and Field, earning a bronze medal in shot put. According to her Team USA bio, she was “the only person in the world, male or female, to complete four ocean rowing crossings of three oceans and to have rowed a circumnavigation of Great Britain.”
Madsen devoted much of her time to cultivating the next generation of Paralympic rowers. She founded the California Adoptive Rowing Program in 1999. She is survived by her wife and five grandchildren.
Wine Country Marines is hosting a GoFundMe to bring Madsen’s remains back to the United States. That fundraiser can be found at gofundme.com/f/bring-our-warrior-home
Reach London Bishop at (937) 502-4532