In the 45 years since Parkettes Gymnastics opened, Bill and Donna Strauss and their club in Allentown, Pa., are among the sport’s elite thanks to the success they have enjoyed on the national and international stage. 2013 is a special year for several reasons: the Strausses celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on June 8; this is the 45th anniversary of opening Parkettes; and it is the 40th anniversary of the Parkettes’ Invitational. Parkettes has come a long way since its humble beginnings in l968, becoming one of the longest-running and most distinguished gym clubs in America.
In the Strauss’ 45 years in the gym business, they have placed five gymnasts on an Olympic Team or as alternate; boast nine World Championships, six Pan American and an amazing 118 national team members. In addition, Parkettes has had numerous state, regional and national champions along the way, as well as helped 135 athletes earn college scholarships. They also recognize their staff of coaches with approximately 273 years of coaching experience and 91 years of administrative experience.
In 1968, the Strausses started their gymnastics program and called it The Parkettes because they were inspired by Carroll Parks, a principal at Trexler Middle School. The road to success was not an easy one. As the sport of gymnastics grew, so did the Strauss’ means to provide a quality program to their students. In their formative years, the Parkettes practiced in places such as a barn with no heat, a dimly lit basement of a church, the Strauss’ own backyard (during the summer), and the second and third floors of Symphony Hall in Allentown’s downtown area. The Strausses knew that for gymnasts to reach their true potential, they needed a modern training facility that could serve both competitive and recreational gymnasts.
Alfred W. Pelletier, then chairman of the Board of Mack Trucks, Inc., heard of the Strauss’ mission to build a gym and realized that Allentown and his county had a “diamond in the rough.” Through the efforts of Mr. Pelletier, many local businesses and private citizens, sufficient money was raised to begin construction on a new Olympic-sized facility equipped with the most up-to-date equipment. Built in 1981, the facility is still in use today.
The accomplishments of Bill and Donna Strauss include: members of the 1988 Olympic Team coaching staff; 1989 inductees into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame; and three-time USA Gymnastics Coaches of the Year. Parkettes Gymnastics has been recognized as the Special Olympics’ Organization of the Year, and its coaches have also been named Coach of the Year. Their list of accomplished athletes is long, but includes such well-known names as Olympians Hope Spivey and Kristen Maloney, as well as Olympic alternates Jodi Yocum, Kim Kelly and Elizabeth Price.
The Strausses believe their biggest accomplishment is knowing that they not only have taught gymnastics, but also life skills of dedication, focus, hard work, commitment, discipline and being an overall good person to their many students. They have three children Aca a