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Frank Bare, U.S. Gymnastics Legend, Passes Away
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Frank Bare, former gymnast, administrator and artist, died Friday in Warner Springs, Calif., where he had been living with his wife, Linda. He was 80.

Bare began gymnastics as a youth at the Northside YMCA in his native St. Louis. His competitive peak came in 1952, when he won the NCAA pommel horse title as an Illinois gymnast. His college coach was Charlie Pond.

Bare became the first Executive Director of the newly formed U.S. Gymnastics Federation in 1963.

In 1963 Bare became the first Executive Director of the newly formed U.S. Gymnastics Federation (now USA Gymnastics). He worked from the kitchen of his home in Tucson, Ariz., and always had the recipe for success.

He helped found the first USGF Congress in 1965, and the first World Cup in 1969. He also adopted The Modern Gymnast (IG's previous name) as the unofficial magazine of the USGF. Even wrote a column: "Grin and Bare It."

One of his biggest accomplishments came in 1970, when, after a long struggle, the USGF replaced the AAU as the official governing body for gymnastics. As a result, many doors began to open for American gymnastics.

"In conflicts and disputes, he was masterful in bringing everyone together and finding a solution," IG Publisher Paul Ziert said.

Bare definitely wasn't afraid to take chances. In the early 1970s he had the vision to organize U.S. tours that featured gymnastics icons Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci. In 1976 he boldly held the first American Cup in Madison Square Garden of all places. In 1979, he brought the World Championships to the Western Hemisphere for the first time. Held it in Fort Worth, Texas, and it was big.

"Through his leadership and courage, we benefitted greatly and established the U.S. program as contenders," said Bart Conner, who won the inaugural American Cup and the 1979 world title on parallel bars.

Bare's tenure with the USGF ended in 1980, but he never stopped contributing to gymnastics. He was especially proud of his son, Frank Jr., who was a successful aerial skier and a coach to various national teams for the Olympics.

Bare moved to California in the late 1980s to help former IG publisher Glenn Sundby get the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame on solid ground.

But while Bare maintained his positive outlook on life, he began to feel the effects of Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM), a debilitating disease with no known cause or cure (similar to ALS). Even after being confined to a wheelchair, he stayed busy. He continued his long-time passion for painting, and also served as Chairman of the Board for the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 1999 in the Lifetime Achievement category. During his induction speech, Bare shared a life philosophy he had learned from his parents.

"If you ever see a turtle on top of a fence post, you can bet he didn't get there by himself," he said.

It was his humble way of describing his career.

By 2007, Bare had lost virtually all of his physical abilities, and so relied on Linda's help for life's daily challenges. Still, he didn't complain.

"I feel wonderful," he told IG back then. "I simply can't do anything by myself."

Bare was made an honorary member of the FIG in 1980, and was inducted into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1984, the year the U.S. won its first Olympic gold medals in the modern era (men's team, pommel horse, parallel bars, women's all-around, uneven bars).

Since 1990 IBM battled relentlessly with Frank Bare, but on one front it never stood a chance. The disease may have immobilized his limbs, but it never reached his spirit.

"I've never seen anybody go through such a deteriorating condition with such dignity and class," Conner said. "It was something inspiring."

Bare is survived by his wife, Linda; son, Frank Jr.; and daughters Cydney and Rebecca.

A memorial service will be held in Tucson, Ariz., March 12 at 2 p.m. at Christ Presbyterian Church, 6565 E. Broadway Blvd. For details, contact Sam Bailie: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Comments (1)add comment

michael deibert said:

Frank was a customer at my coffee shop in Oklahoma City. I always looked foreward to seeing him. aa fine, humble man! I know he is missed. Glad to have met he and his wife. RIP
September 06, 2014
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