Fr.Lange plaque text

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Fr.Lange plaque text

Postby paulgill » 17 Mar 2010 0927

This is the latest draft of the text for the proposed plaque which we hope to attach to Brownson Hall or another suitable campus location:

In Honor of Fr. Bernard H. B. Lange, CSC, 8/8/88-1/14/70.

Born in Danzig, East Prussia, Lange emigrated to Oil City, Pennsylvania with his family as a boy. He entered the Notre Dame Preparatory School in 1904, and his reputation as a non-conformist and superman started the day he climbed to the top of the Golden Dome, wrapped his right arm around the statue of Our Lady, and waved to his awestruck classmates on the ground far below.
Lange graduated from Notre Dame in 1912 and was ordained in 1917. He went on to earn advanced degrees in comparative anatomy and physical anthropology and to teach those subjects at Notre Dame and at St.Edward's University in Austin, Texas. A contemporary and friend of both Knute Rockne and George Gipp, Fr.Lange was one of the strongest men on earth in his prime. An all-around athlete as an undergraduate, Lange took up weightlifting in 1918 at age thirty, and in 1922 he was proclaimed the Fourth Strongest Man in the World. He specialized in the bent presss, one-armed snatch, and the other "odd lifts" that were popular then, but he possessed prodigious all-around strength. Fr.Lange's legend may have been born on the day in the early 1920s in Brownsville, Texas, when, on a bet, he demolished the world record in the bench press. Accepting the challenge of a local skeptic, the 5'8", 260-pound priest positioned himself under the loaded barbell and proceeded to rip off eleven repetitions with 403 pounds. He later said he was laughing too hard to go on. Lange continued to train with weights to the day he died. At age 65 he was still able to dead-lift 600 pounds, rip a deck of playing cards in half using only the thumb and forefinger of each hand, and shell hazlenuts with his bare fingers.
When failing eyesight forced Fr.Lange to retire from the classroom in 1935, he devoted his energies to his twin passions of woodworking and weightlifting. He established a combination gym-workshop in the old Natatorium in the shadow of the Golden Dome. There he built hauling wagons, benches and racks for his gym, and missal stands and altars for Sacred Heart Church. Every Saturday for many years he loaded lumber and tools onto his wagon and hauled it to the poor neighborhoods of South Bend, where he helped residents repair their homes. A passionate swimmer, he tapped into the nearby campus laundry's hot water pipes to supply warm water for the pool, in which he gave free swimming lessons to the children of Notre Dame employees and local children. He swam year-round in St.Joseph's Lake, and used a pickax that he kept hidden in the woods to hack out a hole in the ice so that he could swim when the lake was frozen.
Like his friend Knute Rockne, Fr.Lange had a galvanizing effect on the students who came under his tutelage. He motivated his lifters withh a combination of fear and Teutonic discipline, tempered by love for his "boys." Only the brave ventured beyond the "Fr.BHB Lange, CSC, PRIVATE, KEEP OUT !! sign on the front door. If Fr.Lange decided to let you lift in his gym, you paid him $5 annual dues and agreed to abide by his rules: no radios, no lifting on weekends, put all plates and dumbbells back in their racks, and be out of the gym by 4:30. Failure to obey the last rule would result in bombardment with 5- or 10-pound plates. More than a few All-American football players were bodily ejected for violation of Fr.Lange's rules. Fr.Lange was an early advocate of Olympic-style lifting for football, track and field and other sports. His 1953 Olympic lifting squad won the national collegiate championship.
Fr.Lange was a combination of mentor, father figure, spiritual guide and friend to the thousands of Notre Dame men who trained at his gym from 1935 to 1968. For us, the words of our alma mater have special meaning, as we picture the young "Dutch" Lange embracing Notre Dame, and waving to us from on high.

Notre Dame, our Mother
Tender, strong and true
Proudly in the heavens,
Gleams thy gold and blue.
Glory's mantle cloaks thee
Golden is thy fame,
And our hearts forever,
Praise thee, Notre Dame.
Love thee, Notre Dame.
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