Three greats from the sporting world passed away in early June — Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe and Carole Gemer.
If that third name seems out of place among those two giants of the sports realm, you didn’t know Carole Gemer. An outstanding track and field athlete in her youth, she was perhaps even greater as a sports organizer and administrator, spending several decades being the behind-the-scenes engine that made countless local sports events hum along smoothly.
With husband George serving a long career as a track coach at the University of Lethbridge, Carole had a close relationship with the U of L and its athletes, who fondly referred to her as “Mother Goose.” That’s because Carole cared for them the way a mother goose cares for her goslings. But then, caring was in her nature.
If memory serves me correctly, it was in my first year as a Lethbridge Herald sports writer, in 1976, that I first met Carole — likely at a local track meet, which she and George were often involved in. I quickly learned that if I needed anything — results, information, help with tracking down an athlete to interview — Carole was the best go-to person around. She was always eager to lend a hand, and if she didn’t have the needed information readily available, she knew how to get it.
Some people talk a good game, but Carole was one of those people who got things done. And when she was involved, plenty got done, whether it was forming a local gymnastics club, West Wind Gymnastic Club, which is still operating in Lethbridge; helping George start a new track and field club, the Southwind Atletika club; or working with George in launching the Lethbridge 10-Mile Road Race, now known as Lethbridge College’s annual 10/4 Road Race.
Carole used her energy and administrative talents to benefit a steady stream of local events. For example, she served as Director of Sports for the 1996 Alberta Winter Games held in southern Alberta. She was a long-time volunteer with the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame, and just last year served as co-master of ceremonies with former U of L Pronghorn basketball star Dori Johnson.
Carole’s organizational abilities were put to use far beyond local borders. In 2000, she served as team leader for Canada’s track and field team at the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. It was her second Olympics, having served as women’s team leader at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. In 1997, she was involved in the World University Games in Sicily, serving as athletics manager for the Canadian contingent as well as Head of Delegation for track and field.
Prior to that, she was the manager at the World Track and Field Championships in Germany in 1993 and Tokyo in 1991, and held the same role at the 1991 World Indoor Championships in Seville, Spain and the World University Games in 1989 in Germany.
Deservedly, Carole was named to the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 for her own outstanding athletic achievements. She arguably surpassed those during her many years as a sports organizer and deserves to be inducted again in the “builder” category. But for all her accomplishments, Carole probably treasured her role as wife, mother and grandmother the most.
Carole Gemer was simply a wonderful person, someone whom it was always a pleasure to encounter, whether it was at an athletic event or just running into in the grocery story as she and George did their shopping.
She will be greatly missed by all of us who knew her.