Olympic gold medalist Terry McDermott, ‘The Essexville Rocket,’ dies at age 82

Richard ‘Terry’ McDermott won gold medal at 1964 Olympics

Terry McDermott, 23, of Essexville, Michigan, skates the U.S. to its first Winter Olympics gold medal in 500-meter speed skating event February 4th. Terry made the distance in 40.1 seconds for a new Olympic record. (Getty Images)

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. – Olympic speed skater Richard “Terry” McDermott, who earned the nickname “The Essexville Rocket” and won a gold medal during the 1964 Olympics, died this weekend at the age of 82.

McDermott was born Sept. 20, 1940, in Essexvile, Michigan. He died Saturday, May 20, 2023.

McDermott is widely known for his success as a speed skater in the 1960, 1964, and 1968 Olympic Games. He won a gold medal in 1964 and set an Olympic record time, then earned a silver medal in 1968.

The United States winter team selected McDermott to be the flag bearer for the opening ceremonies in 1968.

Family members said McDermott started speed skating at the age of 7 and entered his first international competition at the age of 19. During his first Olympics in 1960, he finished seventh in the 500-meter event.

McDermott met his wife, Virginia Vermeesch, at St. John’s High School. They remained married for 59 years. The couple moved to Birmingham in 1967.

McDermott loved being involved with his children and grandchildren, golfing, solving Sudoku puzzles, and watching sports.

He is survived by his wife, his five children, his 11 grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, and three sisters.

Visitation for the family will be held Thursday in Royal Oak, and a funeral mass is scheduled for Friday in Bloomfield Hills.

Click here to read the full obituary.

Memorial donations can be made to the U.S. Speedskating Foundation or St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.