Angela Madsen was a wholesome younger Marine who was enjoying basketball when she suffered a severe again damage in 1981. When she had again surgical procedure a dozen years later, at 33, she awakened paralyzed from the waist down. She misplaced her job, her accomplice cleaned out her checking account and left her, and for a time she lived on the streets, sleeping in her wheelchair in entrance of Disneyland.
But her story didn’t finish there.
A pure athlete, she finally took up rowing and joined competitions. She began successful gold medals at world rowing championships and competed within the Paralympics. She then set her sights larger: to row the oceans. She conquered the Atlantic (twice) and the Indian Ocean and circumnavigated Britain, all with rowing companions or a staff.
In 2013, she tried her greatest problem: rowing the Pacific solo, from California to Hawaii. But she bought caught in a ferocious storm and needed to be rescued. The subsequent 12 months, she made the journey with a accomplice. But she nonetheless yearned to do it alone.
Finally, this spring, she set out by herself, leaving Marina del Rey on April 24 in her 20-foot lengthy state-of-the-art fiberglass capsule, Row of Life. She deliberate to land at the Hawaii Yacht Club in late July.
Others have made the journey solo. But Ms. Madsen aimed to be the primary rower with paraplegia, the primary brazenly homosexual athlete and, at 60, the oldest lady to take action.
She was two months in and midway to Hawaii when she found an issue with the for her parachute anchor, which deploys in heavy seas to stabilize the craft.
She had been in fixed contact together with her spouse, Debra Madsen, in Long Beach, Calif., by textual content and satellite tv for pc telephone, and Angela was posting footage and observations on social media for these following her voyage. Debra mentioned in an interview that when she warned cyclone was coming, Angela knew she needed to repair the , which might require tethering herself to the boat and getting within the water.
“Tomorrow is a swim day,” Angela posted on Twitter on Saturday, June 20.
On Sunday, there have been no messages from her. As the day wore on, Debra grew extra frightened. She may inform from monitoring knowledge that the boat was not being rowed. At round 10:30 p.m. she texted Angela that their pal Soraya Simi, who’s making a documentary about Angela, was calling the Coast Guard.
At round eight p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard noticed her within the water, lifeless and tethered to her boat.
The aircraft couldn’t land. But the Coast Guard had already diverted a German-flagged cargo ship en route, to Tahiti from Oakland, to retrieve her. The ship was capable of recuperate Ms. Madsen’s physique on Monday night time, however not her boat. The ship reached Tahiti on Tuesday.
Debra Madsen mentioned she could by no means know what occurred, until Angela, who was conserving a video diary, had turned on one in all her cameras.
She mentioned Angela might need been caught in her tether, or developed hypothermia with out realizing it. She may additionally have had a coronary heart assault or different sickness.
The reply could lie within the boat, nonetheless adrift within the Pacific. Debra is attempting to rearrange for its retrieval, which can be expensive, and for Angela’s physique to be transported to Hawaii for cremation and burial at sea with navy honors.
“I want her to complete her journey,” she mentioned.
Angela Irene Madsen was born on May 10, 1960, in Xenia, Ohio. Her father, Ronald, offered automobiles, and her mom, Lucille (Sibley) Madsen, was a homemaker.
With one sister and 5 brothers, Angela grew up studying to struggle and play sports activities. All that was put on maintain briefly when she grew to become pregnant as a highschool junior. A daughter, Jennifer, was born in 1977, and Ms. Madsen graduated in 1978.
She enlisted within the Marines in 1979 and was stationed in El Toro, Calif., as a navy police officer. She was capable of preserve her daughter together with her.
At 6 toes 1 inch tall, Angela excelled at basketball and performed for the Marine Corps ladies’s staff. During apply at some point, she fell ahead and somebody stepped on her again. She had two ruptured disks and a broken sciatic nerve and for a time couldn’t stroll.
With remedy, she slowly recovered. She discovered work as a mechanic within the Sears automotive division and later at U-Haul. But she couldn’t sustain such bodily demanding work and took a desk job as a mechanical engineer.
Then in 1992 she broke a leg and a few ribs in a automotive accident. Already affected by spinal degeneration from the basketball damage, she had corrective surgical procedure the following 12 months, which left her with each legs paralyzed.
After the surgical procedure, the lady who had been her romantic accomplice for 4 years left, saying she “did not sign on to be with someone in a wheelchair,” in line with Ms. Madsen’s memoir, “Rowing Against the Wind” (2014).
The accomplice took her automotive, her incapacity checks and her financial savings, Ms. Madsen wrote. With no cash for hire, she was evicted. She saved a number of possessions in a locker at Disneyland and lived on the streets together with her canine for a few months, till she was helped by the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
“When I celebrated my 34th birthday on May 10, I found myself wishing I had never been born,” she wrote. “My weight had ballooned up to 350 pounds, which made me feel more immobile than ever.”
Then got here an accident within the San Francisco subway during which she plunged headfirst from her wheelchair onto the practice tracks. It left her with a gentle mind damage however led her to appreciate that she had extra to be glad about than sorry about, and he or she resolved to form her personal future.
“I stopped being a victim and started taking responsibility to retrain, re-parent or reprogram myself,” she told Trekity, an online travel newsletter for women.
“It does not mean that bad things no longer happen to me or that I am not victimized by people or that my life is easy,” she added. “I just improved my coping skills and took myself to another level.”
Always athletic, she turned to competitive sports. She got involved with the Veterans Wheelchair Games, and in 1995 won three gold medals: in swimming, the wheelchair slalom course and billiards.
By 1998 she had discovered adaptive rowing for athletes with physical disabilities, and by 1999 she had joined her first ocean rowing regatta.
It was as if this multitalented athlete had finally found her sport. Ocean rowing gave her the chance to compete against people without disabilities, and she relished the challenge and the freedom from the mundane aspects of daily life.
But mostly, she loved being out on the wide blue expanse.
“It is monotonous, it’s frightening, it’s hopeless, it’s majestic, it’s exhilarating, it’s endless, it’s timeless, it’s exhausting, it’s rejuvenating, it’s painful, it’s joyful, it’s frustrating, it’s contradictory, it’s extraordinary,” she told Trekity.
Even cancer and a double mastectomy did not slow her down.
She trained, raced, coached and surfed, as a 2015 documentary on her achievements makes clear. She founded the California Adaptive Rowing Program. She won four gold medals with the U.S. rowing team at the world championships and competed in three Paralympic Games, winning a bronze medal for the shot put in London in 2012.
She met Debra Moeller, a social worker, in 2007 when Debra brought a disabled and abused child to Angela’s adaptive rowing program. They married in 2013.
In addition to her wife, Ms. Madsen is survived by three brothers, Ronald Jr., Clifford and Ira Madsen; her sister, Julia Jarrell; her stepmother, Betty (Hardin) Madsen; two stepchildren, Tiffany Corona and Ryan Moeller; and five grandchildren. Her daughter died last year.
“Angela was a warrior, as fierce as they come,” Debra Madsen and Ms. Simi wrote on the website RowOfLife. “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.”