Press

Elegy for Terry Todd (1938-2018)

I’ll miss Terry Todd. Not for his feats of strength or his lifting records, which are many and well cataloged. Nor for his support of many individuals and organizations, of whom others will .recount. Not for his scholarship of Physical Culture and for his stewardship, along with his wife Jan Todd, who survives him, of the HJ Lutcher Stark Center, which will continue to provide testimony to their achievements. He and Jan brought a seriousness and academic rigor to the study of Iron History that, with few exceptions, had hitherto been lacking. He often remarked that Jan was the brains behind the operation and this wasn’t a gesture of marital piety. It is evident in her own published scholarly work and that of her students.

No, rather, I’ll miss Terry Todd for his early morning or late evening phone calls.

The topic usually started on a particular attribute or history of a piece of lifting equipment. And from there ranged through history, literature, music, art and culture. Intensely learned, Terry came from a long line of Texas aristocrats. And yet Terry was a democrat with a small 'd'. Todd embodied the best of what is the amateur and the professional. His was a life that sought to balance otium and negotium: the contemplative life and the active life. Mens sana in corpore sano. Terry spent a lifetime being productive. And yet he spent a lifetime reading and thinking not only about Physical Culture, but Culture with a capital C. Sometimes it was low culture, and sometimes it was high culture. Terry could be skeptical — and indeed (this may surprise some): he possessed a healthy suspicion of his subject. And yet this is a mark — perhaps the principal mark — of a mature, scholarly mind.

Our last conversation was only a few days ago and concerned the history of Berg and Schnell, and some of the German traditions in weightlifting and the ’36 Berlin Olympics. And the reputed locations of some (perhaps) lost Milo tooling. And somehow our conversation wound its way through Greek and Renaissance sculptures (he said his favorite sculpture was Myron’s Discobulous or 'Discus Thrower' — we agreed on that), Post-Napoleonic systems of measurement and their influence on classifications of 'weight,' the figure of the weightlifter in latter day popular literature, and certain trends (for good or ill) in the marketing of exercise and fitness. Our conversation usually drifted toward literary matters and at the end of the conversation, when we both resolved to make an effort to try to stay in closer touch, he remarked : 'you know, I can’t imagine not having spent my life dedicated to reading and thinking. All those great books that I have read. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not had them.'

I’ll miss Terry Todd. I won’t hear his baritone voice on the other end of the receiver. And I won’t have those free-wheeling and wide-ranging conversations again.

And so, another member of the old guard passes. Our tribe is one member fewer. Our circle is one link shorter. We shan’t see his like again.