A New Olympic Record
The Shea family reached a milestone on December 20, 2001. That day, when Shea's grandson Jim Jr. qualified for the Olympic skeleton team, they became the first family ever to have three generations of Olympians. Shea was there, watching the World Cup skeleton meet in Lake Placid, when the youngest Shea qualified, and he was looking forward to watching his grandson compete at the Olympics in two months. Other Olympians and Olympic organizers were impressed with the family as well, and plans were made to honor Shea, the oldest living American to have won a gold medal at a Winter Olympics, at the Salt Lake City games. Jim Shea Jr. was selected to recite the Olympic oath for the American team, just as his grandfather had seventy years before.
But Shea would not be there to be honored, to see his grandson take the Olympic oath, or to see him come from behind on the last segment of the course to win the gold medal in skeleton by a mere five hundredths of a second. Shea was struck by an allegedly drunk driver less than a mile from his Lake Placid home on January 21, 2002. He died the next day.