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Senior Lifestyles

Copley dentist still has Olympic spirit

8/1/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Dr. James George is shown with his Olympic medals.
Photo courtesy of Dr. James George
COPLEY — Dentist Dr. James George is marking 50 years in his chosen profession this week, and he’s still putting in 40-hour workweeks at the age of 78.

The Akron native credits his immigrant parents with instilling the value of hard work, an ethic he said helped him earn two Olympic medals in his youth in weightlifting.

George got a bronze medal in the sport in the 1956 Olympics in Australia and followed that four years later at the 1960 Rome Olympics with a silver medal.

“It was absolutely a thrilling experience — just the chance to travel to Australia from Akron,” he said. “I am living part of the American Dream.”

George said he grew up in East Akron. His parents were both of Bulgarian descent and immigrated to the United States from Macedonia as teens.

“They became naturalized citizens and taught themselves to read and write English,” he said. “It starts there. They instilled very much of a work ethic. That work is a value unto itself, not for what it accomplishes, but what you get out of it.”

He added he began lifting weights after his brother started going to a weightlifting club started by two brothers in their neighborhood.

“I was born in the middle of the Depression, in 1935,” he said. “There weren’t too many things you could do other than what was free. I started at 9 years of age, and by the time I was 16 I was a state champion in the AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] open division. I found I really enjoyed lifting weights.”

George lifted competitively at East High School and then in college and as a graduate student at The Ohio State University, Kent State University and the University of Hawaii.

He said his Olympic experience is something that has stayed with him. His wife of 42 years, Gerri, had his medals framed, and they hang in their home today, he said.

“I still think about it quite a bit,” he said, adding he also earned five world championship titles.

At one point, he said he held the world record of almost 400 pounds for the clean and jerk lift, in which the weights are lifted from the ground to the shoulders and over the head.

He also enjoyed the friendships he made through the sport.

“This was the era when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. dominated weightlifting competition, but interestingly enough, there was also friendship,” he said. “This was the height of the Cold War, but we competed against the same individuals.”

In August of 1963, George completed his dentistry training and began practicing — 50 years ago this week, he noted.

Once he took on his professional duties, he turned his ambition to his practice, he said.

“I was fortunate in as much as going from the thrilling aspects of being a weightlifter to going into a profession that gave me a great sense of accomplishment,” he said.

Today, his practice has three locations and he works with his son-in-law, Dr. Mark Grucella, who will take over the practice eventually.

George still works out, but the heavy weights of his youth have been replaced by lighter ones. He also does squats, bench presses and sit-ups and rides a stationary bicycle.

In addition, he said he keeps his mind sharp by continuing to maintain a 40-hour work week, filled with administrative duties and seeing patients, though he does plan to wind down in the coming years.

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