A TRIBUTE TO A MAN AHEAD OF HIS TIME
By Jennifer Brown, "The Winged M"
Compliments of Multnomah Athletic Club
Reprinted with permission of AOBS Newsletter (Association of Oldetime
Barbell & Strongmen)
Joe Loprinzi was born in Portland in 1914, one of five children: Lena,
Sam, Joe, and Phil. Joe was an active boy, playing baseball,
sport he could find, usually with his brother Sam.
He and Sam, 18 months his senior, were particularly close. They went
everywhere and did everything together. One day the pair saw a
at Portland's Hippodrome Theater.
"We decided to make some weights out of cement," says Loprinzi. "So we
take some cans and pour cement into them and put a pipe in between. We
couldn't afford to buy weights in those days. Then we would go on down
the old railroad track and pick up some old pipes and some old wheels
work out that way there."
When he first started weight training, Loprinzi was big on
not so big on muscles--not yet.
That came later.
"At 13 or 14, I weighed 105 pounds," he recalls. "I got teased by the
kids, and I decided, I'm gonna make them eat those words."
The improvement he saw in his physique changed his life. "You wouldn't
believe the progress you can get with weight training," he says. The
brothers scraped together $5 to sign up for the Charles Atlas course
hooked on physical fitness. In 1930 they started a gym next to their
and called it the Portland Barbell Club. The two used to lift there,
then found out that they could compete for Multnomah Athletic Club as
competitive lifters. So the two Loprinzis and a friend named George
applied to lift for the club.
The club gave Loprinzi an athletic membership in 1934, and he
club in competition. Loprinzi took the state amateur title in weight
Loprinzi was working out at the club one August day in 1937 when he was
approached by Jack Peebler, who was in charge of weight training and
Peebler needed an assistant. "Joe, would you like to work for the
He asked. "Will you work three weeks for nothing?"
It was hard to resist such a deal, but Loprinzi held firm. "I should
something, don't you think? I know something about weight training. I
some kind of background." So Peebler offered him $60 a month and threw
Loprinzi worked at the club for 60 years, leaving only briefly to serve
the Navy in World War II from 1941-45.
The war over, Loprinzi celebrated peacetime by attending a dance on a
December evening in 1945. There he met Darleen, an outgoing young
the farmlands of South Dakota. They were married in 1949.
The Loprinzis have two daughters, Pam and Janet. They have one
Once he was back at the club for good, Loprinzi focused on helping
He headed the physical fitness department, taught weight training,
calisthenics, squash, gave massages, and initiated fitness programs
changed and extended countless lives.
With club manager Verne Perry's encouragement, Loprinzi started a
weight training class that grew from seven women to more than 90. When
club underwent improvements, he advocated a new weight room.
And then there was jogging. "We started jogging in the early '60s, and
thought we were crazy," Loprinzi laughs. "We were just a handful of
then. We used to run around the old track. We started jogging up in
hills, then in the stadium."
Soon Loprinzi initiated organized runs like the Zoo Run and the Tennis
Run. "We used to have as many as 500 runners," he says.
When hip replacement surgery put a stop to the running, Loprinzi took
walking with his usual enthusiasm.
For 18 years, Loprinzi shared his enthusiasm for exercise with the
viewing public by teaching fitness on KGW-TV's Telescope and Early Bird
shows. Loprinzi's exercise segments were interspersed throughout the
In recognition of Loprinzi's special gift for making fitness fun, the
established the Joe Loprinzi Inspirational Award in 1988. The award
recognizes one member each year who embodies the enthusiastic interest
fitness shown by Loprinzi. A perpetual plaque is on display in the
trophy case and an annual banquet honors the nominees.
In later years Loprinzi taught weight training, leading men's
classes, working with members on rehabilitation and corrective
giving massages, offering pep talks and providing a listening ear and
The Loprinzi Wing
"The addition of the new wing makes MAC the giant of athletic clubs,"
Loprinzi. "You'll never find a club with the athletic facilities that
More than 500 people attended a retirement party held in Loprinzi's
August 1997. It was at this party that Bob Gulick, NMC's president at
time, read the Board of Trustees' resolution to name the West End
the Loprinzi Wing.
"I thought it was a joke," Loprinzi says. "I was just doing my job.
talked to many members, and they're very happy about the expansion," he
"They're very proud of their club. I've heard people say, ' I can't
but work out with the new facilities. This motivates me.' I'm back!'"
"My family is very proud. I'm glad that, at my age, I'm alive to see
wing. I'm very thankful that it's something that my family can be
It's a great honor."
Loprinzi's dedication to MAC is going strong, despite the fact that
retired for two years. He can't walk through the club without stopping
talk to several acquaintances or to met new members touring the club.
"We call him the Pope," says weight room supervisor Pete Greer.
think the Pope is Polish, but they're wrong. He's Italian."
"I think members know that I love the club," says Loprinzi. "I am
here to help anyone. I always introduce myself to new members. I'm a
believer in having them know that I care."
"When a member works out, it's a challenge to me to make them feel
When they feel better, I feel better. Health and fitness are
Since his retirement, Loprinzi still works out at the club, and he
having a few "honey do" requests from his wife on his list of things to
"It was hard to retire, but it was time," he says. "You have to adjust
yourself to retirement, and I've adjusted. As long as I can come to
club, that makes me happy."
"I give my wife credit. She's had a lot of patience with me--we've
married for 50 years. I thank her for our two daughters and
I'm very fortunate to have such a nice wife. I don't know what I'd do
Loprinzi knows what it takes to keep the club and the new wing running,
he does not hesitate to thank the many members and employees who make
what it is. "I want to thank everyone that made this possible," he
love you all!"
When asked the significance of the wing's name, Loprinzi hesitates. He
quickly admits that he doesn't believe in boasting.
"I still think that I'm dreaming," he says. "The wing is something
family will have forever."