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Robert L. "Bob" Bednarski

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BEDNARSKI, Robert L. "Bob" Robert L. "Bob" Bednarski died Sunday, (February 22, 2004) at Baystate Medical Center at age 59. Bob was America's foremost heavyweight Olympic-style weightlifter in the 1960's. He won five National heavyweight Championships from 1963 to 1970 and set 27 World records. Bob's quickness and agility were his hallmark as he outlifted men much larger than himself. Bob's lightning-quick athletic lifting style was copied by the Soviets, which led to their dominance of the sport in the 1970's. His performance at competitions was absolutely electrifying. Bob was elected to the United States Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame in 1983. Bob Bednarski burst onto the international weight lifting scene with a second place finish in the heavy weight class at the 1966 world championships. Many thought this rising star's career might be over when he suffered a serious elbow injury while competing in the 1967 Pan American games. Surprising the experts, he staged one of the great comebacks in sports when he set two world records at the 1968 Senior National Championships. His 486-pound clean and jerk was at the time the most weight ever lifted overhead. This was the last time a U.S. weight lifter could claim this feat. Controversy and bitter disappointment soon followed when Bob was not chosen for the 1968 Olympic team. Many fans and experts felt he was the only U.S. lifter capable of defeating the defending World and Olympic champion Zhabotinsky of the Soviet Union. Bob came roaring back in 1969 to win the world championships and set several world records. Bob's passion for weightlifting was equaled by his passion for making friends and enjoying life. All who knew him will sorely miss his gregarious personality and unyielding generosity. Bob leaves his loving wife of 29 years, Kathy (Gacek) Bednarski of Springfield, MA; son, Bobby Bednarski; and daughter, Sheryl Bednarski; and four grandchildren, Bobby, Sarah, Jonathan and Nicole all of Rhode Island. Born in Hartford, the son of John and Helen Bednarski, Bob had three brothers, John, Gary and Richard and three sisters, Judie Valois, Carol Ferrelli and Brenda Paris. He also leaves numerous nieces and nephews. Bob loved animals, especially his poodles Beau, Sandy and Pooh. A memorial service celebrating Bob's life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 20 at Forastiere-Smith Funeral Home, 220 North Main Street in East Longmeadow, MA. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to MSPCA-Angell, 171 Union Street in Springfield 01105.

Published in The Hartford Courant on Feb. 29, 2004
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