Dan Gable, retired Olympic wrestler, paid Perry a visit on Thursday, Oct. 19 for the Dallas County library’s event, Dallas County Reads One Book. Gable visited the Perry High School for a brief assembly in the afternoon, followed by a meet-and-greet at Hotel Pattee and later a book talk at the Perry Performing Arts Center.
This is the fourth annual Dallas County Reads One Book event, according to Library Director, Mary Murphy.
“We always try to expand our program to meet everybody’s needs and I think we’ve widened our audience tonight,” said Mary Murphy, Library Director. “I think he [Dan Gable] has a message; all of his life has been devoted to single-minded motivational focus.”
In the past, the library has brought in authors who primarily pen mysteries, a popular theme among readers in Perry.
The first event, a success in Murphy’s eyes, brought in author William Kent Krueger of Ordinary Grace.
“Ordinary Grace was a book that appealed to almost everybody - men, women, mystery lovers,” Murphy said.
As the program grew each year, more attributions have been added: a meet-and-greet taking place at the Hotel Pattee, and now, the addition of two authors, both fiction and non-fiction.
“When you’re in charge of your own programming, it’s kind of like whatever you can dream of you can make happen,” Murphy said.
Gable has owned many titles throughout his lifetime: three-time all-American, three-time Big Eight champion, Gold Medalist at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, a Coach to 152 All-Americans, 45 National Champions, 106 Big Ten Champions and 12 Olympians, and many more.
One title, however, struck home for the residents in the community: Gable has family ties to Perry.
At 15, Gable met his “real” Grandfather for the first time at his sister’s funeral.
“He didn’t look familiar like I’d known him, but he looked like my Dad,” Gable told students during the afternoon assembly.
After questioning his father, Gable learned the story of how his last name was actually not in fact Gable, but Leaming.
“When he was at a certain age in his life, his parents got divorced and when he turned 18, he changed his name to the new husband’s name and I had never known that,” Gable said.
The story is a chapter highlight in his book, Murphy describes.
In order to build anticipation for the event, Murphy said the library had around thirty books available for purchase, all of which have sold out.
“I think people have appreciated bringing in someone who is not a typical author,” Murphy said.
During Gable’s high school visit, he talked determination with the students, sharing stories dating back to when he was a high-school athlete.
Gable describes the moment wrestling became a pivotal point in his life as a student.
“I had that feeling,” Gable said. “That actually turned my life around, having a wrestling coach as a math teacher and actually getting a good grade because from then on, ninth grade after that, that determined where I would go to school, if I would go to school.”
Before Gable left for high school, his algebra teacher and wrestling coach gave him a hand gripper as a gift.
“He said, ‘You take this hand gripper because in wrestling you need to control, you need to hold people down and you need that good grip; you use this grip a lot of times maybe when you’re traveling in the car – you can use it, it will help your wrestling’” Gable recalled.
“Nine years later, there’s the same guy, Dan Gable, he’s walking down the Olympic village in Munich, Germany, and he’s getting ready to wrestle in the gold metal final match in front of the world, and as he’s walking down this Olympic village, he’s got this hand gripper – the same hand gripper.”
After parting ways with high school students in the afternoon, Gable toured the Perry Public Library, Murphy said, followed by a ticketed meet and greet reception at Hotel Pattee.
Patrons formed a line in efforts to have a one-on-one with Gable; attendees took photos, had memorabilia signed by Gable, and also got the chance to get to know the famous athlete.
“I’ve been very impressed with the city so far and I really haven’t been here before a lot,” Gable announced to the crowd at the end of the event. “I have a lot of deep feelings about this town ever since I was 15 years old; I knew that someday I would come to this city and it’s been so far a highlight to me, to be honest with you.”
Gable’s day subsided at the Perry Performing Arts Center, where audience members listened to Gable recall moments from his career and asked audience members to ask questions in the end.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Gable recalls about finding success. “I always say if you really want to attempt to make some good changes, you have to do something at least thirty times in a row.”
“I even noticed when I taught camps there was a time period where all of the kids all of a sudden started adjusting, so you find the right atmosphere or the best atmosphere you can, and you weather the storm until you feel the progress.”
Afterwards, Gable signed copies of his book and even a few pairs of wrestling shoes.