Champaign Park District honors memory of U.S. gymnastics Olympian with tree at Dodds Park

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Wednesday was a special day at Dodds Park near the Olympic Tribute Monument.

A tree was planted in honor of Gilbert Brinkmeyer. He died at the age of 91 in July.

Brinkmeyer was a University of Illinois graduate. He competed in both the 1952 and 1956 Olympic trials. He was the first alternate on the U.S. Gymnastics Team that competed in the 1956 Olympics.

Pictured: Gilbert Brinkmeyer

A tree dedication ceremony was held Wednesday. Friends and family of Brinkmeyer came to show their support and honor his memory. One of those who attended was former Olympian and U of I Men’s Gymnastics Coach Justin Spring. He said he has great memories of Brinkmeyer.

“We’re still connected. I still remember early on in my coaching career Gil would pop by, bring his grandkids in who were still interested in gymnastics and lo and behold it was the same gym he worked out in decades and decades ago. We’re still there trying to train the next wave of future Olympians and All-Americans in the NCAA,” said Spring.

The tree was planted in the shadow of the Olympic Tribute at Dodds Park, which Brinkmeyer’s wife, Dorothy, said was a great gesture for Gilbert. “It signifies the many, many hours he spent in the gym practicing and practicing his routine. It just couldn’t be a more perfect place for the tree to be, in memory of him.” She went on to say the memorial was great because it encompassed several of Gilbert’s passions.

“He was a skier, a biker. He loved the outside,” said Brinkmeyer. “He loved to give back to his community. He was very active in Rotary. He was a Champaign Park Board Commissioner from 1987-1999. The parks meant so much to him. It just couldn’t be a better place to have a tree for him.”

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