Jim Gebhardt still making a mark long after he retired

Most Ex Cadets who attended RMC during the 1960s who had any interest in sports and / or fitness is very familiar with a gentleman by the name of Jim Gebhardt.

Jim Gebhardt still making a mark long after he retired

Article by WJO

WJO

Jim Gebhardt ranks right up there with other Department of Athletics legends from the ’60s era: Danny McLeod; Hank Tatarchuk; Doug Hargreaves; and Wally Travis all of whom have made lifelong impressions with athletic-minded cadets from well over 50 years ago.

James Henry (Jim) Gebhardt first arrived in Kingston, January, 1962 as a 28-year-old, hand-picked member, of the athletic department staff led by Major Danny McLeod.

By the time, Gebhardt arrived in Kingston, holding the rank of Sergeant; he was a nine-year veteran of the RCAF. Prior to, during and following his time in the Limestone City, he consistently cultivated strong ties with the particular local civilian community where he happened to be posted, while serving his country.

Between 1952 and 1962, he had previously completed military postings in: Ste Jean, PQ; Aylmer, ON; Langar, U.K.; Toronto & Ottawa and was universally recognized as a true sportsman, tough as nails competitor and a person of integrity.

Early in his career, he was better known as an outstanding hockey player; however, what he accomplished away from the ice far exceeded any on ice accomplishments. He pitched at a pretty high level in the better softball leagues during his early years in the air force.

In 1953, the establishment of the Recreation and Athletic Specialists School at RCAF Station Aylmer, ON took place.  The students were selected from among highly recommended special recruits with various athletic and recreational backgrounds. They eventually qualified as Air Force “Rec Specs”. Many were called – few were chosen. James Gebhardt was one of the chosen ones.

Top rated, “Rec Specs” were renowned for their organizational abilities. Gebhardt was among the very best of this highly motivated group. Over the next few years he applied, developed and mastered his trade in Toronto, the United Kingdom and Ottawa.

During his first posting to Kingston, Gebhardt, wasted little time getting acquainted to the local sports scene. He quickly integrated himself into the local amateur hockey league by joining a local civilian Intermediate “A” team; by 1963 the Kingston “Aces” were formed.

For the rest of the ‘60s, he endeared himself to Memorial Center hockey fans because of his consistent high level of play. Although, a handful of other soldiers from Base Kingston or RMC played parts of a season or two – Gebhardt was the ONLY regular military player on the “Aces” team during the 1960s.

Jim was recognized as a gifted and highly skilled hockey player, however, his biggest gift and major contributions to Kingston was his interest, involvement & leadership in building ties between the civilian and military communities.

Working and interacting with Cadets is something he loved doing. The Cadets loved his style too!

The day-to-day demands of staff members in the RMC athletic department were enormous. Despite this heavy workload, he was able to strategically manage his full-time military primary duties with a high degree of commitment with the Kingston population, at large.

During this time period, he was instrumental in developing opportunities for ALL sports minded citizens of the local area, to participate in a number of high profile structured activities. He played a leading role in organizing provincial & national coaching clinics for a variety of sports including track & field, wrestling, gymnastics & hockey.

These clinics were open to the “public” and were the fore-runners to the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), which only got launched in 1974. Those attending the RMC clinics included many City of Kingston high school teachers who were also coaching various sports at their various schools.

His life after being posted out of RMC…the first time…

On leaving Kingston, he spent three more years in Europe serving with NATO.  While in Germany he not only played and starred in hockey but was the lead ‘off-ice’ Canadian representative for the International League – which consisted of most western European countries. He conducted youth hockey clinics all over West Germany and as far away as Vienna, Austria. The sports & recreation programs he organized and led, involved not only military personnel but many German and American youth from the surrounding communities.

He returned to Canada as a commissioned officer. An indication of the value his military superiors placed on his enormous, 20-year contributions to the well-being of military personnel, their families and those civilian communities he touched over that entire span.

The best was yet to come.

He was to spend the next four years in Chilliwack, BC, the Canadian Forces Base where aspiring young officers received their basic officer training prior to entering RMC.  In addition, to his regular military duties he once again reached out to the local community and involved himself in a number of provincial sports activities.

In 1977, he was transferred to Borden, ON, home to what was then called the Canadian Forces School of Physical Education & Recreation.  By this time, due to the unification of the navy, army & air force from the mid-1960s, there was an urgent requirement for air force “Rec Specs” and navy & army Physical Training Instructors (PTIs) to all get on the same page.

Captain James Gebhardt was the hand-picked officer of the time to lead aspiring community leaders from the three services on how to deal with the changing realities. Physical fitness for the troops remained the number one priority.  However, in particular, most navy & army PTIs had never or very little experience dealing with recreation and sports programs involving civilian communities. This rejuvenated emphasis has paid large dividends to this day in every community across Canada that has a military base nearby. In short, many protégées of his, have gone on to lead civilian sports programs from coast to coast.

Following three years in Borden, he was promoted to the rank of Major and selected into the order of Military Merit (OMM). The OMM is an august group, as only one in every thousand members of the Canadian Forces is admitted in any given year.

In 1980, he moved to a desk job in Ottawa – by day. In the evenings, and weekends, all-year round, he involved himself as a participant and a leader in a number of community-based activities.

In 1986, he returned to RMC, as Director of Athletics, the chair once occupied by Danny McLeod. An obvious ‘reward’ final posting – for a career of outstanding performance.

One of his first orders of business was to immerse himself in the organization and leadership of The Carr-Harris Cup series, originally billed as the Causeway Challenge. Many other joint military / civilian projects were to transpire during his tenure as Director of Athletics.

No longer is the college or CFB Kingston – “those places across the causeway, which most Kingstonians know little about”. Many youth and adult programs along with facilities are shared by both civilian and military personnel.  It was the vision and trail blazing of James Gebhardt which helped make all this possible. Prior to his arrival – sports facilities at the College were pretty well out of bounds to the average citizen of Kingston.

Although the Constantine arena and the Sir Archibald MacDonell Athletic Centre are primarily military training facilities Gebhardt led the charge to open them to civilians living in the Kingston area.

Over the next two years until his retirement from the Canadian Forces in 1988 he involved himself in a number of activities mostly involving Old Timers Hockey – both playing but more impressive, organizing fund raising hockey & golf tournaments – with proceeds being donated to local groups.

Jim was selected to the Canadian Forces Sports Honour Roll in 1989 in the sport of hockey.  The CF Sports Honour Roll was initiated in 1987 to recognize the outstanding performance or the long-term contributions of a member to the CF sports program. By coincidence, Danny McLeod was selected that same year.

He has been retired now for close to 30 years. Yours truly, had the pleasure of working directly under his leadership during the last year of his time in the CAF.

And what a great year it was! He didn’t let up one bit during his final year in uniform.

Although he was soon to be retiring, never once did he take his foot of the pedal. Cadets and staff were very well served during this time period.

‘Geby’, as he is fondly referred to by his many friends will be turning 84 on September 9th. Since retirement, Kingston has been the choice of residence for him and his wife Yvonne.

Activities of grandchildren and daily walks with Yvonne takes up much of his time these days. However, with the golfing season just around the corner he expects to be on the links with many of his ex-PERI friends and at times, Ex Cadets who happen to be in the area during the summer and fall.

James Henry (Jim) Gebhardt, is truly one of the real giants that served – the CAF,  RMC and the Kingston community well over many years.

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There is a nice unrelated article on Jim about his hockey playing days in 4 Wing Baden Here

12 Comments

  • Tom Carty

    April 16, 2018 at 10:54 am

    I played with Jim on the Kingston Aces, and will always consider him one of the great teammates. It seemed that the tougher the game, the more you were glad he was on your side. Better yet, off the ice, he was a gentleman in every sense, ready to lead or support any worthwhile cause. RMC has every right to be proud of Jim; he is as good as it gets.

    Tom Carty

  • André Corriveau

    April 16, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Hi Bill. I did not get to know Jim as well as other guys have in the course of his career; but the interface that we had has always left me with great memories about a good guy, a good officer and a good hockey player. Thanks for this article. I arrived in Chilliwack in August 76 to complete Phase 4 training at the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering. Upon arrival, I was informed by the Course Officer that “Capt Gebhardt wants to see you and he works at the gym”. I went to the gym. Jim wanted to know if I wanted to play on the Base Hockey team. It took me 0.1 second to say “yes”. I still do not know how Jim got my name. I played and practiced with him until December when I left Chilliwack. Yes; tough as nails on the ice but friendly, inclusive and jovial off the ice. We met again in summer 79 when I was posted to Borden. Jim had the ability to include you in a community and to enable you to contribute to that community; an important piece of leadership.

  • Jim Faulkner

    April 16, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Jim helped Danny McLeod and Bill Hayward coach the RMC Redmen hockey team 1962-1964 while I played for them. A wonderful man and a true gentleman. I’ll never forget the drills where he and Bill would line up near the boards and have us try to squeeze by with the puck without being taken out. He could’ve killed us, and probably would have if it was a real game, but always held back.

  • Paul Beswick

    April 16, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Jim was like my older brother when I was at RMC (and Yvonne was like my older sister). I came to RMC from Royal Roads in 1966 and graduated in 1968. Danny McLeod had asked me to start a wrestling team at RMC (as I had at Royal Roads) and, to show his versatility, Jim was the coach. We were very successful during my two years … I think we were OSLAA champs both years. Then, in 1967, with Jim’s inspiration and leadership, I and Bill Bentley won silver and bronze medals respectively in the first Canadian Intercollegiate Wrestling Championships, held in Edmonton as part of Canada’s Centennial.
    In my senior year at RMC, Jim let me keep my 1960 Triumph TR3 at his house – I think Jim was living up above Fort Henry at the time. An incident Jim will probably never forget is driving my TR3 down the hill one snowy winter day when the brakes failed. He survived and we’re still friends.
    I’ll be coming back to RMC mid-September for our 50th Reunion and one of my highest priorities will be to visit Jim and Yvonne, as I have for every reunion I have attended. For me, Jim and RMC are linked … what a great guy, what a wonderful friend.
    Thank you for the article, a fitting tribute to such a fine person.

  • Gene Markell

    April 16, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    I know Gibby well and consider him a friend. I played hockey as his partner in Germany and learned so much from him. Always a professional his friendship has carried on for nearly 50 years. Great article on a great Canadian

  • Duke Reid

    April 16, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Played briefly with Jim with the Rockcliff Flyers after just getting back from Marville France February 1957. Was posted to Uplands that summer And played against him for the next few years in the old National Defence Hockey League. A truly fearless competitor in hockey and a true gentleman off the ice. My late wife Gladys was a good friend with Yvonne. I wish Jim. Long and happy retirement.

  • Ken Benoit

    April 16, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    I second everything that Paul Beswick said about Jim Gebbhardt. Although not a wrestler himself he was an excellent coach with a calm caring attitude that imparted confidence in his team. Practices were well organized and enjoyable. He organized many great tournaments for us. I still remember with fondness the trip we had to Oswego State University where we all learned a lot from some very good American wrestlers. Thanks for all that you did for us Jim…it was and still is appreciated.

  • Alfred E MacDonald

    April 17, 2018 at 8:42 am

    I new Jim in Chilliwack. I was there from 73_76. So was Paul Richardson, Tom Bowie and Ray Bowes. Wonderful storey.

  • Bonnie MacKenzie

    April 17, 2018 at 11:39 am

    I knew Jim, met him at a lot of functions involving the Rec Centres, I worked at the Rec Centre in Baden from 1973-1976. My boss MWO Harry McDonald, Sgt. Fred Hummerstone knew him well. My husband played hockey for the Baden Knights and also knew Jim. He is a legend in military sports!

  • J.D. Smith, 8074

    April 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    You are a great guy Major Gebhardt! !!! And look at the following that you cultivated by great effort in everything !!! Smitty, 8074

  • Kevin Bryski

    April 22, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Bill,

    Super article on “Geby”. I recall his time at RMC, especially playing hockey against him at noon. I still recall his “laser focus tracking” and ability to quickly “close the gap” as he defended against so well against the offense. Highly skilled hockey player and a true gentlemen.

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