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Joe Cash

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Jean Cash Schwied
Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources - Cash Family Collection

Sarasota History - Joe Cash photo

In the 1950’s a Sarasota boy was emerging as a local hero who made it big in the young sport of water skiing.  Joe Cash, oldest son of James and Clara Cash who owned J.C. Cash Jewelry Store on Main Street, didn’t try water skiing until he was 17 and by the time he was 20 he was the World Champion.

He was born George Joseph Cash, May 25, 1937 in Shelbyville TN.  The Cash family moved to Sarasota in 1946 seeking a better climate for Joe who suffered from asthma.  The Cash family was always on the water; fishing, skiing, racing speed boats.  Joe graduated from Sarasota High School in 1955 having participated in the swim team and Sailor Circus where he met his future wife, Ida Mae Messer. They were married shortly after high school and Joe’s first job was at Sunshine Springs and Gardens.

Later, Joe was a principal skier at Cypress Gardens where his skiing career progressed. He set records in all three disciplines; slalom, tricks and jumping. In 1957 he won Slalom and the Overall title in the World Championships at Cypress Gardens. Other major titles included the National Jumping title in 1957 and 1958, where he set record jumps of 126 feet and then 129 feet.  In 1959 he broke the jumping record again increasing it to 132 feet and won the coveted Masters Overall trophy at Calloway Gardens, Georgia (he is pictured above at Calloway Gardens at the 1962 Masters).  Later that year he raised the mark to 136 feet and then increased the record to 142 feet in Fort Myers, FL.  He became known as “Jumping Joe Cash” for shattering the jumping records and bringing home the trophies.

In 1958 Joe was the first in the world to barefoot ski from a deep water start.  He had a strong local presence, people could watch him perform in ski shows with the Ski-A-Rees, or they could learn to ski in Sarasota Bay with the World Champion! He was honored as Sportsman of the Year by the local Sportsman Club, and he and Ida Mae were crowned King and Queen Neptune in the 1962 Frolics. At the peak of his career he was hired by Mercury Outboard Motors as a spokesperson and a member of the test race team. He also appeared on the Gary Moore Show and What’s My Line? Hedlund skis produced the Joe Cash Slalom and he even did a TV commercial for Oasis Cigarettes which can still be found on YouTube today.

At the 1959 Nationals in Laconia, NH, Joe suffered a knee injury which would change his career.  Although guaranteed a spot on the USA team for the world tournament in Milan, Italy, Joe forfeited his spot after his injury. He was down for the moment, but not out! Joe was an easy-going guy who could light up a room with his smile, but he also had the never-quit mentality of a world-class athlete. Due to his knee injury, jumping was no longer his strong suit forcing an intensified focus on the other disciplines. He won the Masters Slalom Championships in 1960 and 1962 and took the Master’s Trick title in 1964.

By the time he was 26 he and his wife, Ida Mae, had five children; Kevin, Katrina, Karen, Kristal and Kelly.   Young skiers sought him out and the title “Coach” was added to his repertoire. He and Ida Mae bought the house across the street from Selby Gardens, where they could provide room and board for those who trained at the Joe Cash Ski School on Bayfront Park. He trained world-class teams from Italy, Germany, France, Great Britain, Canada, Mexico as well as the U.S. Three of the six members of the 1963 U.S. Team trained under Joe; Billy Spencer, Jeannette Brown, and Dicksie Ann Hoyt.  Spencer and Brown won the World Championships in Vichy, France.

In 1960, Joe and his Dad, Jimmy Cash, had entered a new business venture, opening a full-service marina, The Outboarder, on City Island.  It was a family marina offering boat sales, fuel docks and high and dry storage. Life was good for Joe and his family, filled with promise of the future.

Then, Thursday, July 13, 1967 at the age of 30, Joe’s life ended when his car collided with a train on Bahia Vista Street. Multiple articles appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the news of his death rocked residents who cherished their local hero. Bo Callaway instituted a perpetual slalom trophy in Joe’s memory to be awarded each year at the Masters Tournament. Guillermo Garcia, whose son had trained with Joe, started the Joe Cash Memorial Invitational Tournament on Lake Tequesquitengo near Mexico City. Joe was inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame in 1987.

Joe’s sister, Jean Cash Schwied, his widow, Ida Mae Cash, and three of his girls, Katrina Cash, Karen Cash Greco and Kelly Cash Turner, still live in Sarasota.  More information can be found at:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Cash ,