- Scroll down for some tributes to Bare from members of the gymnastics community
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., Feb. 25, 2011 – Frank Bare of Warner Springs, Calif., the first executive director for the U.S. Gymnastics Federation now doing business as USA Gymnastics, died earlier today of pneumonia at the age of 80. Following a decorated collegiate gymnastics career at the University of Illinois that included a national NCAA pommel horse title, Bare went on to become one of the most influential men in gymnastics in the United States.
“Frank Bare played an integral role in the development of gymnastics at many levels,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “He was truly dedicated to the best interests of the sport, and it is because of his leadership that USA Gymnastics has remained such a vital national governing body from its earliest days. His legacy is strong, and he will be missed by many who knew him.”
“I first met Frank as a young member of the U.S. Team that won the team bronze medal at the 1979 World Championships,” said Peter Vidmar, two-time Olympic gold medalist and chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors. “Frank had been at the helm of the USGF for many years, and this was a very proud moment for him. He was a pioneer in our sport who helped lay the foundation for the success we enjoy today.”
The U.S. Gymnastics Federation was founded in 1963, and Bare was tabbed by the founders to head the organization. He accepted the position and built the foundation for USA Gymnastics from his kitchen in Tucson, Ariz. Bare, a former athlete, coach and judge, guided the fledgling organization through the process of becoming the USA’s national governing body for gymnastics and separating the sport from the Amateur Athletic Union. Recognized as a visionary, he galvanized athletes, coaches, judges and other members of the gymnastics community to band together to build the sport in this country. In just seven years, Bare’s efforts paid off when the USGF was recognized by the International Gymnastics Federation in 1970.
Bare’s involvement and enthusiasm helped spark national interest in gymnastics during the 1970s, especially following the 1972 and 1976 Olympic Games. He organized the first USGF national championships, as well as international gymnastics tours. Bare brought the world’s top gymnastics countries to the United States, giving the USA’s athletes the opportunity to compete against the very best. In 1976, he started the first American Cup, held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The event has grown into one of the most prestigious international invitationals in the world. In 1979, Bare hosted the USA’s first World Gymnastics Championships in Ft. Worth, where the U.S. Team won three gold, three silver and two bronze medals for its best showing at a World Championships at that time.
Bare served as the USGF’s executive director from 1963-80. Bare was a member of the FIG’s Executive Committee from 1972-76 and served as an FIG vice president from 1976-80. He also was chairman of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Bare was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1984 and the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in the Lifetime Achievement category in 1999. He was also made an honorary member of the FIG in 1980.
In addition to his activities in gymnastics, Bare also was a watercolor landscape artist. He suffered from Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM), an inflammatory muscle disease that impacts the muscles (typically in the arms and legs) for nearly 20 years.
A St. Louis native, Bare competed for the University of Illinois, where he was coached by Charlie Pond. In 1952, he won the Big Ten and NCAA pommel horse titles, as well as finished third in the Big Ten’s all-around. One year later, he finished second in the pommel horse and parallel bars and third in the all-around at the Big Ten Championships, in addition to winning the pommel horse silver medal at the NCAA Championships. In 1954, he earned his second Big Ten pommel horse crown. Bare also coached and served as a judge during his gymnastics career.
He is survived by his son, Frank Bare, Jr.; two daughters, Cydney and Becky; and his wife, Linda. Funeral arrangements have not been finalized at this time.
It’s very sad to hear that our dear friend Frank has passed on.
Tonight I received a call from an old friend and fellow alumni, Scott Crouse, informing me that Frank Bare had passed away. Suffice it to say I was literally shocked when I heard this news. Why? I realized at once that Frank was a person who had impacted my life dramatically and changed the path that I would travel. Of course, I always knew that but it really did not strike me in a meaningful way until I realized that yes, in fact, he was no longer here.
Frank Bare was a person who was larger than life, sometimes controversial, always respected. In the early 1960’s in Southern California when I was introduced to gymnastics in the school system we had the opportunity to compete in two meets in Junior High School with our school. That was it. The only other organized body was the AAU and they really didn’t hold any meets except for Nationals, at least out west. They were the sanctioned governing body for gymnastics at the time. As I went through high school I began to look for opportunities to compete outside of the few meets we had during the season.
Frank Bare headed up a fledgling organization called the USGF. The grassroots movement of this organization was to provide for competitive opportunities for young gymnasts such as myself. I could go on the weekends to local gymnasiums and enter open competitions sponsored by the USGF. I think it was $2.00 per event and come one, come all. You have no idea what a great thing this was! There were no clubs then. To learn gymnastics we went to local high schools for a couple hours at night and just taught each other stuff.
Frank Bare helped to bring gymnastics into the modern era in the United States because of his progressive agenda for the USGF. I competed in one of the early USGF Nationals in Long Beach in, I believe, 1969 that was held in conjunction with the World Cup. As a 20-year-old UCLA gymnast I got to compete on the same floor with Kenmotsu, Cerar, Honma and many of the now legends of the sport. I know that Frank Bare created an environment that gave me and other young gymnasts not only opportunity to develop but also the inspiration and exposure to some of the best gymnasts in the world. We owe a lot of what we enjoy today in our sport to the vision of Frank Bare.
— Dusty Ritter
I only knew him in the latter years of his life, but his contribution to the Gymnastics Hall of Fame was a tribute to the great athletes in this sport and himself! We will miss him!
Frank Bare was a true gentleman, a great leader and promoter of this great gymnastics sport. I was fortunate to go with Frank and Glen Sundby on the very first USGF tour to the International Turnfest in Essen, Germany. Dan Millman, Fred Saunders and myself performed throughout Europe and carried the USGF flag in a huge parade which ended up in the Turnfest stadium. Frank was loved and welcomed by everyone we met especially the teachers, coaches and officials there in Germany when we did clinics and demonstrations. He is fondly remembered by so many, especially me.
We are well aware of Frank’s contribution to our sport. But Frank’s real contribution was the way he presented himself and represented all of us. He was a true gentleman. In the most heated and difficult situations, Frank always maintained his integrity, composure and professionalism. And therefore, he represented Gymnastics in a manner that gained the respect and admiration from all whom he met and dealt with.
He was well respected and well liked by his international colleagues. He paved the way for the USA to play a major role in the FIG’s leadership. It would be very hard not to like Frank, just after meeting him once.
His charismatic demeanor, eloquent voice and the sincerity of his spoken word portrayed class and character. Gymnastics was very fortunate to have such an individual chart our course.
Whether you realize it, he has touched us all and for this, we must all be grateful.
— Mike Jacki
I was the Vice President of Marketing for Dial in the late 70’s when Frank & I first put together Dial’s sponsorship of the USGF. I am very proud to have served beside him in many of his efforts to build the sport, the competitive events world wide, and your Congress with it’s developmental activities benefiting all who attended. I will never forget Frank’s passion for the sport, but maybe even more importantly his love of the thousands of individual people involved in building it, and good fellowship, around the world.
I am so sorry to hear of Frank’s passing. He was such a leader in our sport and a gentleman. He will be missed by many the world over.
The gymnastic community has lost a very special person in the passing of Frank Bare, the first Executive Director of the USGF (now USA Gymnastics). He was a true visionary who established Gymnastics as a major sport in this country and laid the foundation for the success of our gymnasts today. His charismatic leadership and vibrant personality opened many doors for the early struggling USGF and helped to obtain the governing body status from the FIG in 1970.
It was a privilege to have known him and had the opportunity to work with him. I will always remember his warmth, friendship and charismatic personality. He always looked for the best, expected the best and worked for the best. He is by far one of the most positive people I have ever met.
There is no single individual who contributed more to our sport than Frank Bare and he will be sorely missed.
— Linda Chencinski
The Parkettes Organization and especially Donna and I are greatly saddened at the passing of gymnastics’ pioneer and icon, Frank Bare. We have know Frank since 1968 and have spent many hours with him in both meetings and socially. Frank wanted 100% out of everyone to support gymnastics and make it grow. We had discussions with him, agreed with him, laughed and joked with him, but in the end your work ethic and dedication to the sport was what always counted the most. In his later years even with his health fading, Frank was always energetic and interested in what you were doing with your participation in the sport. Frank’s spirit will be with us always.
With great respect,
Frank Bare was truly a pioneer in developing a national organization (USGF) dedicated only to the sport of gymnastics. His vision to move the governing body from under the umbrella of the AAU moved gymnastics to a higher level both nationally and internationally. As an athlete, coach, and judge, I saw his vision take hold in the USA from the beginning stages of the organization to the current status enjoyed today. Frank will be missed by all whose lives he touched. I extend my sympathy and prayers to his family. He left his legacy, passion and the love of the sport to the gymnastic community he served.
I’m very saddened to hear about the passing of Frank Bare, and would like to extend my sincere condolences to all of his relatives, friends and those who were close to him.
I had the pleasure of meeting Frank Bare in the 1970s, and our rewarding relationship as colleagues in the executive circles of the FIG, allowed us to develop the world of gymnastics in our respective countries. Frank was a talented, manager, always willing to spark new initiatives. His sincere, amicable qualities will be dearly missed. The eternal memory of Frank Bare, as an irreplaceable leader of world sports and gymnastics, will always remain in our hearts and will be prominent in the history of FIG indefinitely.
I am blessed to have known Frank Bare in my lifetime, and his companionship will be truly missed.