Fredonia honors Don Reinhoudt with banner

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Fredonia Athletic Director Greg Lauer, left, and longtime coach Alex Conti, right, displayed a banner to honor Don Reinhoudt at halftime of Friday’s football game between Fredonia and Southwestern. Reinhoudt, the 1979 World’s Strongest Man, died on July 3 in a car crash at the age of 78.

The gym at Fredonia High School will now have another banner hanging on its wall for all to admire. The school’s latest banner is to honor the life of a beloved local legend, Don Reinhoudt, who passed away this past July.

Known as the “gentle giant,” Reinhoudt was the World’s Strongest Man in 1979. He is the holder of 51 powerlifting records, including being the World Powerlifting Champion from 1973-1976. Reinhoudt is a member of eight different Halls of Fame, including the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. He was a 1963 graduate of Fredonia High School.

“Don’s feats of strength are legendary, but even more legendary is the fact that this man was the gentlest of giants and the b est of friends,” said Ross Conti, a longtime multi-sport coach at Fredonia and operator of Darwin’s Health Club. “His legacy will never be forgotten in gyms all across the country.”

At the conclusion of the second quarter of the Fredonia-Southwestern football game last Friday night, Fredonia teacher and longtime coach Alex Conti walked with Fredonia Athletic Director Greg Lauer to midfield with a banner in hand. The packed home crowd cheered after speeches to pay tribute to one of Fredonia’s most accomplished graduates.

Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame President Randy Anderson was the first to speak to honor Reinhoudt. Anderson stated that Reinhoudt’s death, as a result of a car crash on July 3 that ended his life at the age of 78, “sent shockwaves throughout Chautauqua County and beyond.”

Ross Conti then followed Anderson’s speech. He said, “Don was truly a gentle giant who befriended everybody, and was an inspiration to all. He was a great man who graced us with his presence. We are going to miss him muchly in future years.”

The dedication was also mentioned at a Board of Education meeting earlier in the week. Fredonia Superintendent Brad Zilliox said, “He’s certainly a gentleman who has had a huge impact in Chautauqua County and beyond. One of our own here in Fredonia … we absolutely want to recognize Don and celebrate his life.”

Zilliox noted as a student growing up in Chautauqua County, he witnessed Reinhoudt present to his class on behalf of the county Youth Bureau on multiple occasions. Zilliox also witnessed Reinhoudt’s presentations to students when he began his teaching career.

“Don was a legend in the sports history of his home county. Reinhoudt was also a larger-than-life figure to thousands of Chautauqua County school children who were mesmerized by his feats of strength and his equally powerful motivational messages delivered during his 25-year tenure as the Director of Chautauqua County’s Youth Bureau,” Anderson said.

Anderson thanked a group of people for their efforts to recognize Reinhoudt at the conclusion of his speech. “I want to thank the Fredonia Athletic Department, Alex Conti, Greg Lauer, Nick Bertrando, Charlie LaDuca, Kelly DiFonzo and Ross Conti for their efforts in honoring Chautauqua County’s Gentle Giant, Don Reinhoudt,” Anderson said.

The banner to honor Reinhoudt will hang near the entryway to the high school gym, next to the banner celebrating Fredonia’s world-renowned Olympic hero Jenn Suhr.

“We will miss you forever, Don, and we will be very proud to look up at the wall in Fredonia and see you in a place of honor next to another outstanding Fredonia resident, Jenn Suhr,” Ross Conti said. “… Don will be in a special place in our hearts and on the wall forever.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today