Doyle Kenady Mountain man from Oregon as told to Powerlifting USA by Gus Rethwisch
Doyle Kenady passed away from a heart attack at age 50, on my birthday, February 3rd. Doyle cut an impressive figure with his mountain man beard and prodigious strength at 5’10”, 310lbs. He was a 2time IPF World Champion and just happened to be the greatest deadlifter that ever lived. However, he had a grip problem (who wouldn’t with 900+ pounds). With straps, Fred Hatfield saw him pull 900lb for a triple and Soren Sorenson saw him pull 1003lb with straps. At my 1986 Hawaii World Record Breakers, he pulled 903lb and had 920 near his knees.
Doyle had a small power gym and believe me, the emphasis was on power. No bodybuilders or pretty boys allowed. He didn’t mind bodybuilding movements, but you had better do them heavy. When I went to Doyle’s funeral, there was a picture of him as a freshman in college, throwing the discus. Without sounding wierd, he was very handsome and didn’t have his trademark beard. I thought to myself “here’s a guy who eventually won the NAIA Collegiate National Championship in both the discus with 196′ and the shot put with 64′ and in 1973 he was going to embark on a mission of turning himself into a power monster”. I can relate to that – I did the same thing. I went from a collegiate baseball player who had a chance to make millions and decided doing big deadlifts was much more exciting than hitting a home run. I went from 235# to, eventually, 357#. It’s a quest, and nobody but a few Superheavy powerlifters like Don Reinhoudt, Jim Williams, Paul Wrenn, Dave Waddington, Jone Cole, Wayne Bouvier, Matt Dimel, John Kuc, Randy Patterson, etc. Would understand what I’m talking about.
The price is extremely high -failed marriages, getting fired from jobs, and, of course, your health suffers when for a ten to 15 years period you drink 2 gallons of milk every day, 4-6 pounds of beef, 16-24 eggs – you get the picture. Doyle only weighed 165# out of high school. He eventually went up to about 310. His natural weight would have probably been 200# at best.
Somebody once asked Karl Wallenda of the famous ‘Flying Wallendas’ trapeze and high wire show “why do you do this and risk death every day”. His response was “If you have to ask, you will never know”. Why does somebody climb Mount Everest? The thing that the Flying Wallendas, people who climb Mount Everest, and Superheavyweight powerlifters have in common is they do it for a love, because of a burning passion for what the do and the money is virtually non-existent compared to big name pro baseball & basketball players. Doyle had the passion more than anybody I ever saw. He had the longest career of any Superheavy – 14 years! He had a heart attack at age 39 and if it wasn’t for that he would have still been lifting big weight up until he died. I asked him on the phone once if he missed the workouts. He said “No – only my heavy day. Gus, my heavy day was like a religious experience – you get the sweaty palms, the doubts, the apprehension of whether you can triple anywhere from 800lb to 900lb with workout partners whose own workouts would suffer if you missed. But when you did it, I was on such a high that I would drive home from my workout didn’t even remember the drive”. I experienced the same thing in Hawaii, I told him. It only happened after heavy deadlifts. You could squat or bench until the cows come home and wouldn’t get that ‘high’.
There have been a lot of casualties along the way due to this obsession of lifting astronomical weight and paying any price – Wayne Bouvier died at age 29, Matt Dimel, O.D. Wilson, Jon Paul Sigmarsson of Iceland, Serge Reding the Olympic Lifter from Belgium, etc., but I guarantee you if you were to ask any of them if it was worth it, they would say a resounding “hell, yes!” Doyle lived his passion. He’s up in heaven now. I told him in a prayer “Doyle, you know if you would have done it differently, you could have had another 25 years.” He said, in his laid back manner “Yes, I suppose so, but then I would have had to watch myself get grumpy, wither away, get old, hurt everywhere, and probably not even be able to triple 600lb at age 75. Gus, you won’t believe this, but a year ago I went into the gym alone. I weighed about 250 and i hadn’t trained to speak of in 5 years and i tripled 700 with straps. I was feeding off that workout until I died”. Then with a twinkle in his eye – he looked like an economy sized Santa Claus when he died – he said “Don’t come bitching to me when you get all sore and wrinkled up, and – by the way – my first deadlift workout in heaven was a triple with 800 and I didn’t use straps”
Doyle’s funeral was packed. It was the ultimate weightlifter’s funeral – there was a barbell in the back of the church loaded to 903lb and a picture of Doyle deadlifting that 903lb on the cover of Powerlifting USA from my Hawaii Record Breakers meet. The picture was blown up and sitting by his casket. I walked by the casket , but I didn’t look at Doyle after his 1st heart attack. He preferred it that way.
He didn’t want me to see him at anything less than his best. The last time I saw Doyle was at my Hawaii Record Breaker in 1987, a year after he pulled 903lb. He opened with 832 like water. He then jumped to 909 – close, but not that day. That’s the Doyle Kenady that I knew, the only one that I will ever know.
source: Powerlifting USA (1986 June)
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