104-Year-Old Famed Strongman Dies After Being Hit

Discussion in 'Strength-Specific Training (SST)' started by TunnelRat, Jan 12, 2010.

  1. TunnelRat

    TunnelRat Active Member

    104-Year-Old Famed Strongman Dies After Being Hit by Car

    Tuesday , January 12, 2010


    NEW YORK —
    A famed strongman who once lifted 3,200 pounds at Coney Island during its heyday and was still bending quarters with his fingers at age 104 died Monday after he was hit by a minivan.

    Joe Rollino was struck as he crossed a major street in Brooklyn, and suffered a broken pelvis, head trauma and broken ribs. He died a few hours later at an area hospital.

    Police said the driver was going the speed limit and had not been drinking. No criminality is suspected, but the driver was issued a summons for a defective horn.

    During his storied life, Rollino hobnobbed with Harry Houdini, watched Jack Dempsey knock out Jess Willard and was friendly with Mario Lanza. He even had a bit part in "On the Waterfront."

    Rollino would have been 105 on March 19, and was the model of health, according to friends. A vegetarian for life, he didn't drink or smoke, his friends said, and he exercised every day. He was a lifetime boxer and was part of the Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen, an organization of men who can still rip book binders at the seam.

    Retired New York Police Department detective Arthur Perry, who boxed in the New York City Golden Gloves in the mid-1960s, met Rollino at his birthday party in 2008 and didn't believe Rollino was the celebrant — he looked too good for a centenarian.

    "It was astonishing, how he was smiled upon by nature," Perry said. "If you would've said to me he was 80, I'd have said he looked younger."

    A decorated World War II veteran, Rollino got his start as a strongman in the 1920s during the high point of the Coney Island carnival, and he billed himself as the "Strongest Man in the World."

    He later made a living as a traveling boxer under the name Kid Dundee and fought in armories in cities around the country where boxing was forbidden.

    Rollino said in 2008 that he was just simply born strong.

    "Fighters would hit me in the jaw and I'd just look at them. You couldn't knock me out," he told writer Robert Mladinich in an interview for the boxing Web site The Sweet Science.

    Mladinich said Rollino had a slew of followers who worshipped him. "He was instrumental in their positive development," he said. "He was an athletic mentor and a father figure to them."

    One is 10-time Golden Glove winner Peter Spanakos, whose twin brother, Nick, roomed with Cassius Clay during the 1960 Olympics in Rome. The two met in the 1950s on the beach.

    "He's a hero's hero. We should celebrate him," Spanakos said. "A true patriot, an athlete's athlete."

    At Rollino's birthday party last year, Spanakos gave him a quarter, and Rollino bent it between his fingers.

    "And you know what, he apologized. He said he used to be able to do it with a dime."
  2. Lol

    Lol Super Moderator Staff Member

    The fact that I don't think I've ever heard of Joe Rollino until now is pretty sad, but not nearly as sad as the way he met his end.

    I looked him up on wiki. What a great strongman he was.

    <div></div><div id="QUOTEHEAD">QUOTE</div><div id="QUOTE">
    Rollino lifted 635 lb (288 kg) with one finger. He once lifted 450 pounds with his teeth.
    Maybe there are vids out there somewhere of some of his feats of strength?


    Sounds like he was about your size TR. Glad you are still popping in. Hope all's going well in your camp.
  3. TunnelRat

    TunnelRat Active Member

    Here's a bit more -- from the New York Times:

    At a Mighty 104, Gone While Still Going Strong


    Joe Rollino once lifted 475 pounds. He used neither his arms nor his legs but, reportedly, his teeth. With just one finger he raised up 635 pounds; with his back he moved 3,200. He bit down on quarters to bend them with his thumb.

    People called him the Great Joe Rollino, the Mighty Joe Rollino and even the World’s Strongest Man, and what did it matter if at least one of those people was Mr. Rollino himself.

    On Monday morning, Mr. Rollino went for a walk in his Brooklyn neighborhood, a daily routine. It was part of the Great Joe Rollino’s greatest feat, a display of physical dexterity and stamina so subtle that it revealed itself only if you happened to ask him his date of birth: March 19, 1905. He was 104 years old and counting.

    A few minutes before 7 a.m., as Mr. Rollino was crossing Bay Ridge Parkway at 13th Avenue, a 1999 Ford Windstar minivan struck him. The police said he suffered fractures to his pelvis, chest, ribs and face, as well as head trauma. Unconscious, he was taken to Lutheran Medical Center, where he later died.

    New York is a city of extraordinary lives and events, and here, indisputably, was one of them — one of the city’s strongest and oldest, struck down on a Monday morning by a minivan in Brooklyn.

    “Pound for pound, in the feats that he practiced, he was one of the greatest performing strongmen we’ve ever had, if the lifts he’s credited with are accurate,” said Terry Todd, a co-director of the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas, who knew Mr. Rollino for more than four decades. “He certainly wasn’t one of the strongest all-time strongmen, because of his size. To ask a well-trained 130-pound man if he can lift what a well-trained 400-pound man can lift is asking an unreasonable question. But for his size, Joe was apparently one of the strongest men who ever lived.”

    Mr. Rollino stayed away from meat. And cigarettes. And alcohol. He said he walked five miles every morning, rain or shine. At the height of his career, he weighed between 125 and 150 pounds and stood about 5-foot-5.

    He was a teenager when he watched Jack Dempsey knock out Jess Willard in 1919. He later boxed under the name Kid Dundee, became a Coney Island performer, worked as a longshoreman, fought in World War II and had a bit part in “On the Waterfront” that never made the film, not necessarily in that order.

    Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Rollino was proudest of one in particular. “My finger strength,” he told an interviewer for ESPN The Magazine. “Six hundred thirty-five pounds. See the size of it. At 150 pounds, nobody ever beat me in this world.”

    He was a legend within that small Coney Island society in which few New Yorkers would want to become known as legends: the men and women who swim in the Atlantic when it is at its harshest and coldest. On a 6-degree day in January 1974, Mr. Rollino and six other members of the Iceberg Athletic Club swam into the waters off Coney Island. The freezing Atlantic was like steel: It didn’t intimidate him.

    “People told me he holds the record for swimming every day for eight years,” said Louis Scarcella, 59, a former homicide detective and a member of the city’s oldest winter swimming club, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. “He was known as the Great Joe Rollino, and he was great. You knew he was great just by standing next to him. He just had that humble confidence and strength. It shined.”

    Mr. Scarcella, like many of those who knew Mr. Rollino, has a Joe Rollino story, or several Joe Rollino stories. And though some of them can be neither confirmed nor refuted, they get told and retold and told again, because they are too good not to. Mr. Scarcella heard that one winter in the 1950s, Mr. Rollino recovered the bodies of two people who drowned in Prospect Park, because the police did not have the necessary protective equipment and it was too cold for anyone else to jump in and bring them to the surface.

    Mr. Rollino was a longtime member of the Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen. Dennis Rogers, a fellow member and a professional strongman, remembered seeing him at the association’s annual dinner in June, at a hotel near the Newark airport. “He just came in to say hi to everybody and coached some of the guys that were performing,” said Mr. Rogers, who in 1995 prevented four motorcycles from moving at full throttle for 12 seconds, according to his Web site. “He would regularly work out in the gym. He was in pretty good shape. He walked a little slow but looked fine.”

    Mr. Rollino had lately been living in Brooklyn with a niece, in a house on 14th Avenue, about a block from where the accident occurred. The driver of the minivan that struck Mr. Rollino, a 54-year-old woman who lives in the neighborhood and who remained at the scene, was not charged. She received a summons for having a defective horn, and the police said that neither speed nor alcohol was a factor. Mr. Rollino had been walking about 40 feet from the nearest crosswalk when the minivan hit him, according to the authorities.

    Old photographs of Mr. Rollino are displayed in several neighborhood shops. People called him Puggy. “If he shook your hand, he’d break it,” said James Romeo, owner of Romeo Brothers Meats and Foods on 15th Avenue. “He wasn’t feeble.”

    Charles Denson, a historian and the author of “Coney Island: Lost and Found,” first met Mr. Rollino at his 103rd birthday party at a neighborhood restaurant. “He was one of the last links to the old strongman days of Coney Island,” he said. “Coney Island was the training ground for strongmen. He was one of the best.”

    Mr. Rollino wowed the crowd at the party, Mr. Denson recalled. He told stories about the old days, of course, but he was more than just talk, even at 103. Mr. Rollino put a quarter in his teeth. Then he bent it.

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