Retired jockey and racing official William J. Passmore died May 14 at his residence near Annapolis, Maryland. The Westchester, Pa., native was 76.
Passmore, who was known on the Maryland circuit as “Willy J.,” retired in 1984 after 37 years as a jockey. Beginning with his first victory with Minneapolis on May 14, 1948, Passmore rode 3,533 winners from 29,490 mounts, with earnings of almost $23 million.
Upon retirement, Passmore became a steward of the Maryland Racing Commission, a position from which he retired in fall 2008.
He regularly rode at Pimlico, Laurel, Bowie, Marlboro and Timonium so he could remain close to his wife and seven children, and he rode at many of the New England and New York tracks. He was a regular rider for top Midlantic trainer King T. Leatherbury and was the regular jockey for owners Art Rooney, Jim McKay, Katie Voss, John T. Merryman, and Bayard Sharp, among others. His father was the late William L. Passmore, a steeplechase rider and trainer.
He is survived by his spouse of 54 years, Charlene, and children: Dr. Patricia Nilles, of Boston, Mass.; Cathlene Lindberg, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Sharon Passmore of Millersville, Md.; William J. Passmore Jr. of Glen Elg, Md.; Ann Marie Dodds of Melbourne, Fla., James Passmore of Los Angeles; and Sandra Criss, of Winchester, Mass. He is also survived by 12 grandchildren.
One of Passmore’s daughters, Cathlene Lindberg, said her father was devoted to horse racing, his family and friends, and was described by many as “the nicest man one could ever meet.” She said Passmore was always promoting camaraderie among those involved in the sport and that “his home was a continuous open house to trainers, agents, valets, and jockeys.” Among the regulars included Bill Hartack, the McCarrons, the Turcottes, "Cowboy" Jack Kaenel, Sammy Boulmetis Jr., Darrell McHargue, Gunnar Lindberg, Butch Easeman and others.
A memorial is being planned for early June at St. Mary's Church in Laurel, MD.