1948 U.S. Olympian Joseph Kotys died Aug. 21, seven days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 86.
Kotys served in the Air Force during World War II from 1940-44 and did 22 missions as a gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress.
After the war, Kotys was an extremely successful gymnast for Kent State University. As the only representative from his university, Kotys won the 1949 and ’50 NCAA all-around titles, and four apparatus titles: parallel bars (1949); parallel bars, high bar (1950); and pommel horse (1951). Kotys was also the 1955 Pan American Games champion on vault.
He was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 1976, and the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1978.
"When I was a developing gymnast, Joe drove hundreds of miles just to help me," said Abie Grossfeld, a former U.S. Olympian who coached the 1984 gold medal U.S. men's team. "He truly was a great gymnast and the first one I ever saw when he won the NCAAs. My deepest sympathy to his family."
Kotys placed fifth at the 1956 U.S. Olympic trials, but a fluke back injury prevented him from competing on the team. (The rings mounting bracket pulled out of the wall while he was training.)
Kotys, who had been living in Florida, was surrounded by his wife and children when he passed. A Military Memorial Service is being planned for late December at the Bushnell National Cemetery. Read more.