Joe Linklater

A place for boys to brag about their weightlifting accomplishments.

Joe Linklater

Postby paulgill » 14 May 2010 0927

My favorite memory of Fr.Lange:
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Re: Joe Linklater

Postby Joe Linklater » 15 May 2010 0927

Like most of us, I was a high school athlete, but weightlifting didn't come into vogue until the last year or two of high school and then only very lightly in the off season. A few of us hung around the local Vic Tanny's in my neighborhood, but like most guys in that era, all I knew about weightlifting was that I loved it.

As a freshman living in Keenan, I had heard about Fr. Lange. When I went to his gym I literally had a lump in my throat. He asked me a few questions, smiled and pushed the book across the table for me to sign. I had heard that the dues varied according to what Fr. Lange thought of you and I was afraid he was going to say "$50 for you pal." It was a myth of course, but I was greatly relieved when he said "Give me five bucks sometime." The next step was to try not to make a fool of myself in front of some impressive athletes. Fortunately, no one was particularly interested in me, but quite quickly I was accepted and people were helping me improve. In four years, I gained 50 pounds and kept the same waist size. I remember walking through my back door my sophomore Christmas vacation and my mother saying "Oh, no, your poor neck." She never could see the point of a 19 inch neck.

Of course we all remember all Fr. Lange's self-made equipment. Remember that great leg machine he built and welded to the steel column in the middle of the room? My best memories include the days that he shuffled over from the Infirmary, sat at his desk and invited me to join him for a chat -- maybe talking about lifting anvils in the oil fields, or even better, giving a little lifting advice, like the right grip for the deadlift so the blood wouldn't squirt out the end of your thumb like it had for him one time. On a good day, he'd have one or maybe two beers from his self-made cooler, bend the caps between his fingers, then go to one of his benches and have you hand him the 100 lb. dumbbells so he could do sets of bench presses.

Fr. Lange needed only his voice for discipline. He could send anyone running with a shout. Did you ever see him throw a plate at someone who didn't pick up after himself? I'm sure no one who was ever in the room when he did that ever left a plate lying around again. I wish they allowed that in the high-end gyms today. But, he also had a smile that could charm the birds -- or in his case, the squirrels -- out of the trees.

I remember Vendel Mattis doing more hyperextended sit-ups than anyone could count, Rocco ceaselessly working on his biceps; I'm sure they make him a better orthopedic surgeon today. Larry Conjar quietly lifting more weight than people could believe. Mike Lind coming back during the 49ers off-season and lifting with us. One day my good friend Paul Costa told me he had never lifted weights and asked if I would take him to Fr. Lange's. Buster has a great sense of humor and I was sure he was setting me up for a prank. No one who looked at him could believe he had not lifted and it turned out that he had lifted sides of beef all day in a packing plant. I took him to meet Fr. Lange, of course. I benched more than I ever had before or since with Buster spotting me, but his sense of humor got the best of us and I also pulled two ribs off my sternum that day. Fortunately, Fr. Lange wasn't present for that stunt.

Fr. Lange had a great effect on the lives of most of us -- as Durso said, turning us into doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs -- and motorcycle riders. He helped teach me courage and perseverance. He kept going even when it was really hard. I'm sure his love of mischief was one of the things that encouraged me to climb the Dome and carve my initials in the beam, just as he had done. I'm still working on having arms like his, even if mine seem to be going in the opposite direction these days. I'm happy that Fr. Lange is with us all today in our memories. May God rest his soul and keep a benevolent eye on all his boys.

Joe Linklater
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