By Woodard, Dale on November 13, 2017.
Six years ago, a javelin thrower sculpture in the form of a three-inch high cardboard and masking tape model sat in the home of George and Carole Gemer.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon in front of a throng of family, friends and University of Lethbridge colleagues, that javelin sculpture which was viewed by many as it sat in the Gemer bar was officially unveiled in statue form, conceived, designed and donated by George and his late wife as a token of appreciation for George’s 47 years of teaching and coaching track and field as well as fencing.
“I’m very happy about it,” said Gemer shortly after the official unveiling and endless photo ops outside the 1st Choice Savings Centre for Sport and Wellness that also coincides with the university’s 50th year. “I’ve always had it in my mind, but finally it’s finished. I was teaching 47 years and I spent nearly half a century here as a coach and teaching. It’s always been in my mind to have the statue here.”
In his youth, Gemer was inspired by his phys ed teach in Hungary.
“(He) was a two-time Olympian in 1936 and 1948,” said Gemer. “He was a javelin thrower. I would have liked to have been a javelin thrower, too.”
But as a prisoner of war in Russian camps, Gemer recalled riding in boxcars and realizing his dreams of competing were over.
It was then he turned his attention to coaching.
“By the time I came home I went on to coaching. I have some athletes from Hungary, England and Canada who made Olympics.”
Gemer arrived in Canada in 1957 and started the Lethbridge Track and Field Club.
It was through the club that he met Carole, who had come to track practice with a friend.
Together, the two came up with unique training regiments that included runs up and down “Puke Peak” to “Vomit Valley” as well as sprints across the west lot with athletes trailing a Volvo driven by Carole, affectionately nicknamed Mother Goose.
The sculpture shows the technically correct position of the moment of release by a javelin thrower.
Fitting, the head of the statue is Gemer’s profile.
On hand for Sunday’s dedication was Gemer’s daughter, Tara Gemer-Lowe.
“It’s hard to put into words what this means,” said Gemer-Lowe. “My dad has had many long journeys in his life and many challenges and I’m so grateful that he can be here at the age of 90 to celebrate this achievement for him and to be able to thank the University of Lethbridge, which has been a source of great memories and friendships for him.”
Before heading inside after the unveiling for a shot of Hubertus – a Hungarian liquor – with those in attendance, the guest of honour worked the crowd and noted the abundance of faces from his past and present.
“My athletes back in Julius Caesar time,” said Gemer with a grin. “My grandkids are in gymnastics and track and field and I hope to see them excel.”
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