The Passing of Former American Weightlifter Russ Knipp - (2023)

Big Jim asked me to paste this message here from my site.

This was posted on GoHeavy by Mrs. Knipp and her son, and I asked for permission from her to share it on ironhistory.com, so I do not think they would object to Russ being fondly remembered here. Hope this is okay, Laree:

TO ALL ~ NOT TOO MUCH HAS BEEN SAID ABOUT THE JUNE AOBS AWARDS DINNER IN NEWARK. I DO NOT KNOW IF ANY OF THE LIFTING PUBLICATIONS PLANNED TO COVER IT. BUT I THOUGHT I SHOULD SHARE HOW MUCH THE AOBS AWARD MEANT TO RUSS SR. BEFORE HIS PASSING, AND WHAT I SHARED AT THE DINNER WHEN HIS SON AND I ACCEPTED RUSS' AWARD ON HIS BEHALF.

AS I MENTIONED AT THE DINNER, RUSS KEPT DAILY JOURNALS IT IS JUST WHAT HE DID. FROM THOSE JOURNALS AND OUR CONVERSATIONS BEFORE HE PASSED, I WAS ABLE TO PRESENT WHAT HE HAD INTENDED TO SAY ON THAT OCCASION. I THOUGHT I SHOULD SHARE THAT ON GOHEAVY. I THINK HE WOULD WANT THAT. WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE RECOUNTING OF IT FOR ANYONE WHO MAY BE INTERESTED.
~ Our Warm Regards to all, Jan and Russ Jr.
*************************************************************
AOBS AWARDS DINNER JUNE 2006
RUSS KNIPP, HONOREE
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT
OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING

[Russ Jr. sat at the Dais in his Dad’s place, and accepted the honor, award plaque, and portrait of Russell Lowell Knipp, his Dad.]

ACCEPTANCE SPEECH BY JAN KNIPP ON RUSS' BEHALF:

THIS IS A DAY OF JOY. BECAUSE RUSS WOULD BE STANDING HERE AMONG HIS FELLOW HONOREES – AND LOOKING OUT AT YOU THIS VERY MOMENT – SEEING YOUR SMILING FACES AND REJOICING THAT YOU CHOSE TO HONOR HIM.

SOME WOULD SAY THAT IT IS SAD THAT RUSS COULD NOT BE HERE TO ACCEPT THIS HONOR AND THIS AWARD. BUT ACTUALLY, THE TIMING WAS PERFECT, BECAUSE RUSS LEFT THIS EARTH WITH THE JOY AND ANTICIPATION IN HIS HEART OF THIS VERY MOMENT. AND HE WAS REALLY EXCITED ABOUT COMING HERE TO SHARE THE MANY STORIES OF THOSE ”GLORY DAYS” HE SHARED WITH SO MANY OF YOU.

HE WAS HONORED BY THIS AND WE ARE GRATEFUL—AS HIS FAMILY – THAT YOU GAVE HIM THIS JOY DURING THE LAST DAYS OF HIS LIFE. SO, A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE AOBS.

RUSS AND HIS SON, RUSS JR., HAVE BEEN TRAINING TOGETHER AT THE GYM – ALTHOUGH OUR SON IS A CLASSICAL PIANIST, AND NOT A WEIGHTLIFTER—HE CHERISHED THOSE TIMES WITH HIS DAD – THEY WERE PROUD OF EACH OTHER AND WERE BEST BUDDIES UNTIL RUSS’ LAST DAY ON THIS EARTH.

IF ANYONE COULD CHOOSE TO LEAVE THIS EARTH THAT WAY HE WOULD WANT, RUSS DID. FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DO NOT KNOW, RUSS PASSED AWAY ON APRIL 9TH WHILE HITTING A BUCKET OF GOLF BALLS IN THE SUNLIGHT ON THE DRIVING RANGE.

LOOKING BACK, WE CAN SMILE TOGETHER ABOUT SOME OF THE ENDEARING KNICKNAMES RUSS HAD OVER THE YEARS:

THE KNIPPER
THE FIREPLUG
THE SQUATTING MACHINE.

AND, HE SURE WAS A “SQUATTING MACHINE.”
JUST DAYS BEFORE HIS PASSING, RUSS WAS SQUATTING WITH 500 POUNDS FOR REPS AT THE AGE OF 63!

FRIENDS OFTEN JOKED WITH HIM THAT HIS LEGS WERE BIGGER AROUND THAN THEY WERE LONG.

AND IT WAS TRUE – HIS THIGHS WERE 28 INCHES AROUND – AND HIS LEG IN-SEAM WAS 27 INCHES!

IN THIS LIFE, RUSS WAS NOT TALL IN STATURE AT 5 FOOT 3.
BUT IT DID NOT TAKE LONG—WHEN YOU SPOKE WITH RUSS AND GOT TO KNOW HIM,
YOU DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE THAT – AND SOON WOULD THINK OF HIM AS THE GIANT OF A MAN HE TRULY WAS.

THANKFULLY, RUSS KEPT DAILY JOURNALS WHERE HE WOULD WRITE HIS THOUGHTS
HIS INSPIRATIONS AND OF COURSE

HIS WORKOUT SCHEDULE.
AND HE ALSO SPOKE TO OUR SON AND TO ME OFTEN ABOUT THIS OCCASION
AND SHARED MOST OF WHAT HE PLANNED TO SAY TO YOU TODAY.

I WANT TO SHARE THAT WITH YOU--AS RUSS WOULD WANT.

HE SAID AND HE WROTE:

"THANK YOU TO THE ASSOCIATION OF OLDTIME BARBELL AND STRONGMEN FOR THIS HONOR. I AM ESPECIALLY GLAD TO BE CO-HONOREE WITH SMITTY TODAY, AS WE GO BACK MANY YEARS AND SHARE A LOT OF MEMORIES TOGETHER.

TO ALL OF THE HONOREES, AND TO MY FELLOW LIFTERS
AND TO THE BODY BUILDERS
I WANT TO SAY THAT: WE ARE “STRONGMEN” BUT I ALSO WANT TO SAY THAT WE ARE NOT “O-L-D TIME” STRONGMEN.

SURE, SOME OF US HAVE A FEW MORE WRINKLES HERE AND THERE – AND SOME OF US HAVE LOST MORE HAIR THAN WE WOULD LIKE – I SURE HAVE –
AND SOME OF US CANNOT LIFT THE HEAVY WEIGHTS WE ONCE DID.

BUT WHAT WE, AS ATHLETES ACCOMPLISHED YEARS AGO LASTS FOREVER,
AND MAKES US “YOUNG-TIME” STRONG MEN.

THE RECORDS WE SET—
WHETHER A PERSONAL BEST IN A DIMLY LIT BASEMENT OR GYM,
OR WHETHER WE SET NATIONAL AND WORLD RECORDS UNDER THE TELEVISION LIGHTS BEFORE THE CAMERAS.

WHAT WE DID – WHAT WE SHARED – LASTS FOREVER.

I WONDERED OFTEN OVER THE YEARS WHY I DID IT – WHY 'WE' DID IT.

PASSING UP CHOCOLATE CAKE OR CHEESECAKE
TO EAT TUNA FROM A TIN INSTEAD
THE TORN, CALLOUSED HANDS
THE BLOODIED CLAVICLES
DOING SET AFTER SET UNTIL OUR BODIES WRACKED WITH PAIN

IT SURE WASN’T FOR THE MONEY – AS WE ALL KNOW.

WE DID IT FOR THE PURE LOVE OF IT:

• THE SMELL OF OINTMENTS AND LINIMENTS
• THE CLOUDS OF CHALKDUST
• WRAPPED IN KNEE BANDS AND ELBOW BANDS FROM THE SCARS OF PRIOR BATTLES
• THE CONTESTS WHERE WE WOULD PUT IT ALL ON THE LINE

DEFYING GRAVITY
BEATING ALL THE ODDS –

THE STORIES WE WOULD TELL OUR WIVES AND CHILDREN—AND EACH OTHER-- IN YEARS TO COME . . .

WE WERE FIERCE COMPETITORS IN THE IRON GAME

BUT WHAT OFTEN MEANT THE MOST—AND MEANS THE MOST NOW
WAS NOT THE GLORY AND THE MEDALS WHICH ARE FLEETING--
WHAT MEANS THE MOST WAS WHEN WE WOULD PRIVATELY—OR MORE OFTEN, VERY OPENLY –
WHEN WE WOULD CHEER EACH OTHER ON
“COME ON —YOU C-A-N DO IT !”

BOTH ON AND OFF THE LIFTING PLATFORM --
WE SHARED EACH OTHER’S TRIUMPHS AND FAILURES

EACH INTENSE INTERNAL PAIN OF MISSED ATTEMPTS
AND THE TREMENDOUS WILL POWER
AND MENTAL STRENGTH WE HAD
TO COME BACK -- AND DO IT AGAIN --- AND MAKE IT.

JUST A FEW STORIES [RUSS WRITES] TELLS IT ALL.

WHEN JAN AND I WENT TO DETROIT TO VISIT JOE PULEO IN THE 60S – AND WE SAW WHERE HE TRAINED – IN HIS BASEMENT AT HIS HOME – WITH NO SHINY PARQUET FLOORS OR STRENGTH COACHES LIKE THE RUSSIANS HAD –
HOW JOE WOULD NEED TO BE CAREFUL NOT TO HIT THE CEILING WITH THE BARBELL –
BUT FROM THAT HUMBLE BASEMENT, JOE WENT ON TO BECAME A U.S. OLYMPIAN AND NATIONAL AND PAN AMERICAN GAMES CHAMPION.

THAT’S WHAT WE ARE ALL ABOUT.

THEN, THERE WAS THE TIME I WENT TO VISIT JOE DUBE AT HIS HOME IN FLORIDA – WHERE WE TRAINED TOGETHER IN THE HOT TIN SHACK WHERE JOE TRAINED –
WE WERE LITERALLY DRIPPING WITH SWEAT AND LITERALLY SWATTING OFF ALL THE MOSQUITOS BETWEEN SETS –

AND I REMEMBER SAYING TO JOE: “JOE – IF THE RUSSIANS COULD ONLY SEE US NOW, THEY WOULDN’T BELIEVE IT.”

AND JOE STOOD ON THAT OLYMPIC PODIUM GETTING HIS OLYMPIC MEDAL SIDE-BY-SIDE WITH THE GREAT RUSSIAN LIFTERS –
WHO HAD NO CLUE WHAT JOE WENT THROUGH TO GET THAT MEDAL.

THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT.
THAT’S WHY WE DID IT.
THOSE STORIES. THOSE MOMENTS. THOSE MEMORIES.

AND NOW WE LOOK FORWARD TO BEING THE BEST MEN WE CAN BE IN OUR LIVES.
OVERCOMING ALL THE ODDS AGAINST US
IN OUR DAILY LIVES.
WITH THE MENTAL TOUGHNESS OF THE IRONMEN WE ARE."

THOSE WERE RUSS’ WORDS AND THOUGHTS HE WROTE IN HIS JOURNALS –
AND SO MANY OTHERS THAT HE AND I HAD SHARED TOGETHER OVER THE LAST 40 YEARS.

IN HIS JOURNAL, THERE WAS ALSO A LIST OF NAMES – NAMES I THINK HE HAD PLANNED TO SHARE SOME STORIES OR MEMORIES ABOUT. I CAN ONLY READ THOSE NAMES BECAUSE I DO NOT KNOW WHAT HE PLANNED TO SAY ABOUT EACH ONE – BUT THEY WILL KNOW THE STORIES. AND WHY RUSS LISTED THEIR NAMES.

JOE DUBE
JOE PULEO

DAN CANTORE
FREDDIE LOWE

TOMMY KONO
GARY DEAL

TONY GARCY
IKE BERGER

WALTER IMAHARA
BOB BEDNARSKI

VICTOR KURENTSOV
ZHABOTINSKY

AND:
TOM HIRTZ
GARY GLENNEY
WES NEAL
DAN HOLLIS

AND – FELLOW HONOREE TODAY – SMITTY.

YOU ALL KNOW RUSS VERY WELL AND WHAT HE WOULD HAVE MENTIONED ABOUT EACH OF YOU.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE—AS WE OFTEN DID OVER THE YEARS THE VERY LAST WORDS RUSS AND I SPOKE TO EACH OTHER WERE:

“LOVE YOU FOREVER HONEY.”

AND TO RUSS, WE SAY NOW:

LOVE YOU FOREVER
SEE YOU IN HEAVEN
WHERE ALL THE WEIGHTS ARE GOLDEN
EVERY LIFT A WORLD RECORD
AND ALWAYS --- THREE WHITE LIGHTS...

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