Pelham has always been an athletic town and, not surprisingly, it turns out has a long history of residents who competed in Olympic Games. Here are the stories of the thirteen identified Pelham Olympians, told together as Pelhamites for the first time:
Games of the III Olympiad, St. Louis, 1904
The first time a Pelhamite is known to compete in the Olympics.
Pelham Resident 1918-1926 at 447 Highbrook Avenue
1904 U.S. Olympic Team, Golf, Men's Team Tournament, Gold Medal,
(ranked 11th of 74)
Photo: 1905, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, SDN-003476.
Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.
Solid gold medal of the type received by Warren Wood.
Photo of gold medal received by 1904 U.S. Olympic Golf Team Member Robert E. Hunter (1886-1971) auctioned by Christie's, South Kensington, "Out of the Ordinary Auction," September, 13, 2016
April 27, 1887 - October 27, 1926
Warren Wood passed away at a very young age, but his home at 447 Highbrook Avenue remained in the family for 50 years. His widow continued at the house where she raised two daughters, Marjorie and Frances, who attended Pelham Schools. Frances married and purchased the home with her husband where they raised their son Warren, and daughter Wendy (PMHS '65).
Many thanks and appreciation to Wendy Southwell Fuchs, granddaughter of Warren Wood, for sharing family photos, information and this clipping from a Pelham Country Club newsletter.
Games of the V Olympiad,
The biggest year in Pelham Olympic History when five Pelhamites were part of the United States Olympic Team and brought home two gold medals.
Among their teammates was Jim Thorpe, who won both the pentathalon and decathalon.
Original Film Footage of 1912 Games
Photos of the 1912 United States Olympic Team from departure aboard the Red Star Line Finland to opening ceremony to ticker tape parade in the "Canyon of Heroes," Broadway, New York
(Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA,
Bain News Service photograph collection)
Born in Pelham Manor and life-long resident (1890-1965)
Henry Stoddard ("Harry") Babock
1912 U.S. Olympic Team, Athletics, Pole Vault, Gold Medal,
setting an Olympic Record at 3.95 meters
Photo: outtake from Official Film, "The Games of the V Olympiad Stockholm," 1912
Harry Babock wearing the "Winged Foot" (as a member of the New York Athletic Club) and standing with teammate Jim Thorpe.
Photo: (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, Bain News Service photograph collection, digital id: ggbain11987//hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.11987)
Harry Babcock graduated with an engineering degree from Columbia University the year after he competed in the 1912 Olympics. He joined the military in June, 1918 as an officer, Second Lieutenant, serving during WW I in the Army Aviation Section, Signal Corps until his discharge February 17, 1919.* He worked for Standard Oil in China for six years, where he was married in 1920 to Azzie Rene Messmore at the residence of Army Colonel W. M. Morrow in Tientsin.** He returned to Pelham and lived with his wife on Union Place (now Oak Lane) in Pelham Manor. He worked in sales for the Ralph S. Angell Lumber Company, then moved briefly to Minneapolis to take a job as a sales manager for the Franklin Motor Car Company. He moved back to Pelham and worked for J.C. Turner Lumber Company eventually becoming an officer of the company. *** He and his wife are buried at The Beechwoods Cemetery, New Rochelle, NY.
* Form S4d-1 for Babcock, Henry Stoddard
** American Consular Service, Certificate of Marriage, October 9, 1920; Pelham Sun, January 18, 1929
*** Obituary for "Harry S. Babcock," Daily News (New York, NY), June 17, 1965, p. 55
December 15, 1890-
June 15, 1965
Born in Pelham Manor, July 24, 1891
Tell Schirnding Berna
1912 U.S. Olympic Team, Athletics, 3000 Meter Race, Gold Medal
Photo: HRH King Gustaf V places laurel wreath on Tell Berna
Outtake from Official Film, "The Games of the V Olympiad Stockholm," 1912
Tell Berna wearing his Cornell "C" Letter in photo taken on board The Finland en route to Stockholm.
Photo from the Olympic Scrapbook of 1912 Olympian Carroll B. Haff, courtesy of his grandchildren.
This appears to be one of the professional photographs taken of the 1912 Olympians on board The Finland .
July 24, 1891 - April 15, 1975
Tell Berna graduated from Cornell University in 1912. He retired to Nantucket in 1957 after 20 years as the General Manager of the National Machine Tool Builders' Association in Cleveland.
Photo: Cornell University Yearbook, 1912
Pelham Resident 1926 - 1947 at 18 Clifford Avenue
William L. Bowman
1912 United States Olympic Team, Fencing, Stockholm, Sweden
Men's Individual Epee, Men's Individual Foil, Men's Team Epee
Photo: 1912 U.S. Olympic Fencing Team with W. Bowman fourth from left.
Courtesy of USA Fencing Data Archive
Photo: Courtesy of USA Fencing Data Archive
July 28, 1881 - January 7, 1947
William Bowman graduated from Cornell University with a degree in civil engineering (1904) and received a law degree from Harvard (1907). He served in WW I as captain of the 27th Engineers, N.G., N.Y., and remained in the National Guard as a captain of the 102nd Engineers. As an attorney, he focused on engineering and architecture matters, while also finding time to chair the Red Cross and Christmas Seal drives, serve as a trustee of the First Baptist Church of Mount Vernon and head the Pelhamwood Association as president. He continued fencing, winning more than 40 events by the time he was 35.
The Pelham Sun, May 18, 1928, p. 1
Pelham Resident 1924 - 1947 at
27 Sherwood Avenue, 157 Townsend Avenue & 1333 Park Lane
Carroll Barse Haff
1912 U.S. Olympic Team, Athletics, 400M (finishing fifth) and
Demonstration Baseball (the first Olympics to include American Baseball)
Photo: Courtesy of the Haff Family
Carroll Haff (back row in center) with other members of the United States Baseball Team the "Finlands" (perhaps taking their name from the ship The Finland, which carried them across the Atlantic to the games). This is the "west" team, which played the "east" team of Americans (including Jim Thorpe) in a demonstration game at the Olympics. Baseball would not become an Olympic medal event until 1992.
Photo and information from Carroll Haff's Olympic Scrapbook courtesy of his grandchildren
February 19, 1892 - April 9, 1947
A graduate of the University of Michigan (1913), where he was captain of the track team, Carroll Haff was an all-around athlete, participating in the Olympics in two sports and later becoming a champion-level golfer at the Pelham Country Club. He was also a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School (1915), but worked in finance as a member of the New York Stock Exchange and a partner with the firm of Abbott, Proctor & Paine (acquired by Paine Webber in 1970). He served during WW I as a Major in Field Artillery and, during WW II, directed the war bond drive and chaired the War Finance Committee in Pelham. He was also chair of the Pelham Community Trust and of the PCC Greens Committee. The Haff Family belonged to Christ Church, Pelham, where Carroll and his wife's remains are interred in the columbarium.
Sincerest thanks and much appreciation to the grandchildren of Carroll Haff for sharing invaluable information and these and other rare photos from Carroll Haff's Olympic scrapbook.
Pelham Resident 1920s at 14 Clifford Avenue
1912 U.S. Olympic Team, Athletics, 10k Walk
Photo: Sam Schwartz (middle row, third from right) with other
Irish-American Athletic Club members on the 1912 U.S. Olympic Team
Courtesy of American Irish Historical Society
Sam Schwartz is credited with organizing the Walker's Club of America in 1911 and reviving the heal and toe sport, leading to its introduction in the 1912 Olympics where he competed. He continued his involvement in amateur sports and was appointed AAU Commissioner for Westchester County in 1932.*
In 1926, as a Clifford Avenue resident, Sam Schwartz invited over his new next door neighbor, William L. Bowman. The Pelham Sun reported that as Bowman looked over some of Sam's athletic trophy's, he suddenly remarked "I know that fellow. I was on the same Olympic Team with him." Schwartz replied "Is that so? So was I." Only then did they realize that the two 1912 Olympians had ended up living next door to each other.**
* The Pelham Sun, September 30, 1932.
** The Pelham Sun, September 3, 1926, "Tales of Three Villages."
July 1, 1882 - June 29, 1943
Pelham Resident 1900 - c. 1938 at 419 Fowler, then 55 Witherbee & later
915 Wynnewood Road ("Witherbee Court")
Alfred Percy ("A.P.") Walker, Jr.
1924 U.S. Olympic Team, Fencing, Men's Foil
Photo: U.S. Team at opening ceremonies, outtake from Les Films Sportifs (The Olympic Games in Paris), Rapid Film, 1924
1924 U.S. Olympic Fencing Team. A.P. Walker front row at far left.
Photo Courtesy of USA Fencing Data Archive
Alfred P. (“A.P.”) Walker, Jr., grew up in Pelham living first at 417 Fowler Avenue before his family moved to 55 Witherbee Avenue. He attended boarding school at St. Paul’s, Concord, New Hampshire and Yale University, where he was captain of the fencing team. After competing in the Olympics, he graduated from Columbia Law School. In 1927, he was elected Town Justice, serving until 1931.
His father was one of the founders of the Standard Milling Company (a holding company that controlled flour mills and grain elevators throughout the country) and served as a trustee and then President (now called mayor) of Pelham Manor.
Tragically, A.P. Walker lost his only child, a daughter, at age 7 in 1934 (probably from injuries she sustained the previous year in a car crash while his wife was driving). His father passed away the next year. He left Pelham, enlisted in the Army in 1940 and remained in the service until 1960.
AlfreD p. Walker, Jr.
JUne 23, 1900 -
May 19, 1983
Games of the XI Olympiad, Berlin, 1936
1936 was a year of great disappointment for Pelham. World-class swimmer Ola May "Toni" Redfern, had come out of nowhere at 16 years old, setting all kinds of new records. But she just missed qualifying for the 100-meter freestyle event at the Olympic Trials. Several members of the PMHS track team also hoped to make it to the Olympics, yet came up short. But one "Pelhamite" would be cheered on by the town as he made his way back to his native Germany, competing for his new home country, the United States of America. Among his teammates would be Jesse Owens.
Pelham Gristedes Delivery Boy
Ernest W. ("Fred") Koehler
1936 U.S. Olympic Team, Athletics, 50k Walk
While not officially a Pelham resident, Ernest "Fred" Koehler was adopted and cheered on by the community where he worked. Born in Germany, he was a member of the German-American Athletic Club. A Pelham Olympic Fund Committee chaired by Carroll Haff included prior Olympians , Harry Babcock, William Bowman, and Alfred Walker. As he sailed for the olympics aboard the S.S. Manhattan a fellow passenger was Pelham resident, John Howard Hanway, manager of the 24-member U.S. Olympic Fencing Team and treasurer of the Pelham Olympic Fund Committee.
(No photo of Fred has been found and the film footage from the 1934 Olympics was so focused on Nazi propaganda that there is little attention to most Olympians.)
Photo by Barbara Bartlett, c. 1975 (re-touched), courtesy of Harry Bartlett and Joe Gallello
Games of the XIX Olympiad, Mexico City, 1968
Pelham hit a dry spell as research has not uncovered any Pelham Olympians in the 1940s or '50s
Pelham Resident & Pelham Country Club Swim Instructor, early 1970s
Stephen Karl Rerych
1968 U.S. Olympic Team, Swimming, 800M Relay, Gold Medal, 400M Relay, Gold Medal & 100M Freestyle
Photo: Steve Rerych, third from left, with Mark Spitz.
Courtesy of North Carolina State Hall of Fame.
Born May, 1946
Originally from Patterson, New Jersey, Steve Rerych attended Peekskill Military Academy where he lettered in swimming, baseball and track. He swam for North Carolina State University and was the 1966 national AAU champion in the 100M freestyle. He was a member of the first AAU team to visit and compete in Russia.
At the 1968 Olympics, he swam with Mark Spitz in the 800M and 400M relays, winning gold in both.
The next year, he married Terry Sue Larson of 10 Westward Lane, Pelham Manor. They lived in Pelham while Steve attended Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and taught swimming at the Pelham Country Club in summers. After graduating in 1974, he completed his residency at Duke University and continues to practice medicine in North Carolina.*
* Patterson News, "College Commencements," July 6, 1974, p. 30; NCSwimHallOfFame.com/class-of-1985.html
Photo: University Archives Photograph Collection. Athletics Photographs, 1893 - 2003 (UA023.004), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries
Pelham Resident 1960 -2000 at 678 Colonial Avenue
William J. ("Bill") Tully
1968 U.S. Olympic Team, Frontenis
Photo: Bill Tully standing at far left with team organizer Dick Squires standing at far right.
Courtesy of the Tully Family
Bill Tully standing at far left.
Photo courtesy of the Tully Family
Bill Tully was a legend in men's tennis. He played tennis everyday for nearly his entire life, well into his 80s. He consistently ranked in the top ten for decades and at one point ranked #1 in the country in the 60+ category. A visit to the Travers Island courts at anytime in the 1970s to early 2000s would likely find Bill there. The walls of his study at 678 Colonial were lined with endless trophies including as winner of the 1948 Canadian National Championships, winner of 22 USTA National Titles and dozens of Eastern, New York and Florida Championships and inductee of the Westchester County Sports Hall of Fame (1995) and the USTA Eastern Hall of Fame (1999). He won the National Grandfather-Grandson Championship four times with three different grandsons.
Bill Tully's trip to the Olympics came, however, from frontenis. What is frontenis? That was a question almost every member of the 1968 U.S. frontenis team asked just a few months before flying off to Mexico City to compete. The team was organized by Dick Squires, legendary platform tennis and squash player.
Read the whole amusing story about the 1968 U.S. Frontenis Team
Bill and his wife, Kathryn, lived in the same house in Pelham for 40 years where they raised nine children. He worked in the financial industry as the owner of a seat on the NYSE.
December 9, 1925 -
July 21, 2016
Games of the XXI Olympiad, Montreal, 1976
Pelham Resident 1975 - 2008 at 1337 Roosevelt Avenue
Dr. Lawrence J. ("Larry") Klecatsky, M.D.
1976 U.S. Olympic Team, Rowing, Men's Double
Photo: Courtesy of the Klecatsky Family
Larry Klecatsky could be called the greatest rower in U.S. history, measured not by his over 800 race wins (including over 50 US Rowing national championships and over 50 Royal Canadian Henley titles) or that he held the course record for the Head of the Charles for 12 years or that he held the record for the Grand Masters Singles for more than two decades (1992-2014), but because he reached and rowed far beyond his weight and age categories. At age 50, he competed in the open at Canadian Henley, skipping his age category where he could have easily taken first place. He came in fourth rowing against kids half his age. At the Montreal Olympics in 1976, he and his lightweight partner competed in the open category. He was the kind of athlete who loved the challenge more than the win, who became good at the sport only by working very hard at it and who was widely considered the best in the world in his sport without having to win an Olympic medal.
Larry graduated from St. Thomas College and the University of Minnesota Medical School, completing his residency in Philadelphia where he rowed on the Schuylkill. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a physician, reaching the rank of Lieutenant First Class. He was introduced to the New York Athletic Club while stationed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and quickly became one of the club's leading rowers among an elite class of athletes.
August 11, 1941 - December 13, 2018
"The boathouse is always open. The lagoon is always open. The weight room is always open."
~ Larry Klecatsky on how to be a better rower
From his connections to Travers Island, Larry and his wife Susan moved to Pelham in 1975, raising three sons here, all of whom graduated from PMHS. He had a 30+ year medical career, serving as the Director of Emergency Medicine at New Rochelle Hospital (later Sound Shore Medical Center and now Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital) and as Associate Medical Professor at the New York Medical College in Valhalla.
See Larry Rowing to win World Championship, 1979
Read recollections of Larry by rowing great, Jim Dietz
Photo courtesy of the Klecatsky Family.
Invitation from President Gerald R. Ford to Larry Klecatsky to attend a White House reception for the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team.
The Town Historian thanks Jeffrey Klecatsky (PMHS '92) for sharing these photos and information from his father's personal scrapbook.
Games of the XXVIII OIympiad, Athens, 2004
One hundred years after Pelham's first Olympian competed, a Pelham native went to the games.
Pelham Resident 1973 - 2000 at 453 Pelhamdale Avenue
Mary Ellen ("Meg") Gaillard
2004 U.S. Olympic Team, Sailing, One-Person Dinghy (Europe Class), Women
Photo: Courtesy of Meg Gaillard Myles
From a Conversation with the Pelham Town Historian
Meg Gaillard Myles' Olympic Story
There are few sports where an athlete competes so alone as sailing in a single-handed boat. Once Mary Ellen “Meg” Gailliard (now Meg Myles) launched her dinghy from the seemingly endless rows of concrete boat launches in Athens and got an assist from her coach’s power boat to the starting line, it was just her in her boat, a “Europe Class Dinghy” of about 11 feet in length, not quite twice as long as her height. No other crew members, no coach, the closest competitor yards away, not even any fans within shouting distance -- just her and the breeze the Greek’s call “meltemi,” a wind so hot that the Olympic sailors from cooler environments called it “melt-me.” But on the day of the race, there was only calm with so little air movement, it probably would have been re-scheduled had it not been slotted for worldwide television coverage.
Meg had been preparing for this without really knowing it since early childhood: Pelham rec soccer and, at a time when there was no girl’s middle school team, boy’s JV soccer, swimming and diving in the summers, varsity lacrosse for four years at Sacred Heart in Greenwich and, of course, sailing, including competitive racing from the time she was ten through her four years at Connecticut College. Inspiration (and probably a healthy dose of genes) came from her maternal grandmother, who was a competitive “yachter” (as sailing was then called), racking up trophies in a field of virtually all men in the 1940s to 1960s. The four years leading up to the race had been fraught with personal and family challenges, overcome in no small part, she says, by support from the Pelham community.
To her, the greatest gift of participating in the Olympics is not the potential medal, but joining in the Olympic spirit of giving one’s all. (She thinks the movie Eddie the Eagle really conveys this.) Meg now lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island with her husband and fourteen-year-old daughter. She has continued to sail competitively, runs the sailing program at the Conanicut Yacht Club and heads the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation, a not-for-profit dedicated to marine education and sailing.
Born August 8, 1973
“The greatest gift of being an Olympian is the spirit of the games. The experience is like life: it’s about the voyage, not the destination.”
~ Meg Myles
Many thanks to Meg Gaillard Myles for sharing her Olympic experience and personal photographs for this post.
Games of the XXXII Olympiad, Tokyo, 2021
Pelham is represented at the Olympics after a 12 year hiatus!
Pelham Resident 2003 to present at 413 Wolfs Lane, 439 Highbrook Avenue
& 1057 Esplanade
Katherine "Kate" Cadwalleder Douglass
2020 (2021) U.S. Olympic Team, Swimming, Women's 200 Meter Individual Medley, Bonze Medal
Photo Courtesy of the Douglass Family
Born November 17, 2001
Kate is in a Pelham Olympian class all by herself: she is (based on the Town Historian's research to date):
- the youngest Pelhamite to participate in an Olympic games,
- the first woman Olympic swimmer from Pelham, and
- the first Pelham Olympian in the history of the town to have graduated from Pelham Memorial High School.*
Her long list of accomplishments and records can be seen on her profile at the University of Virginia.
Pelham turned out en masse to cheer on Kate in her Olympic finals in Tokyo on July 27, 2021.
* Life-long Pelhamite Harry Babcock likely would have gone to high school in Pelham but couldn't: Pelham didn't offer classes beyond eighth grade when he was entering high school in 1904!
Photo Courtesy of the Douglass Family