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Brownie Wrona

Coaching ∙ Beaver Falls

 

 

 

 

Although Brownie Wrona operated an elaborate gymnastics center on Elmbrook Road near Beaver Falls later in life, his own beginnings in the sport were primitive. Born in New Castle in 1921, he came to Beaver Falls as a junior high student in 1934. His oldest brother, Leon, set up horizontal bars in the back yards of their homes in New Castle and Beaver Falls. When Leon took lessons at the Monaca Turners, Brownie followed his actions on the home apparatus that used stepladders for horizontal bars. “We just tumbled on the grass or concrete,” Brownie recalled. “After 1938 we spent time at the Beaver Falls, Monaca, and Ambridge Turners for as long as they would let us stay. My first medal was in fourth place at Charleroi in 1940. In 1941 I placed third in the Nationals at Springfield, Massachusetts.” Bernie served with the Marines in World War II and was wounded in the Marshall Islands and was hit by a mortar on Iwo Jima, where he saw the first American flag go up on Mt Suribachi. After the war, Bernie had a long and successful career as gymnastics coach of the Beaver Falls Turners and also coached the Rochester Turners when Bud Marquette suffered a back injury. As physical director of the Beaver Valley YMCA, Bernie began the first jogging and coordination programs in the area and also served as the first Easter women’s gymnastics director for the Gymnastic Safety Association. Along with Paul Uran and Gene Wettstone, Bernie was instrumental in beginning the WPIAL and PIAA high school gymnastics programs. His gymnastics complex, built in 1972, served over 400 boys and girls.