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Fencing coach Pete Conomikes dies in accident, two students seriously injured November 12, 2007

Posted by sallehon in college, Virginia.

11 November 2007 | By Austin Wright, Flat Hat News Editor

The College’s club fencing coach, Pete Conomikes, died yesterday in a car accident while traveling with the team to a fencing competition.

Three students were involved in the crash, and two of them are seriously injured.

rest of article here



1. sallehon - November 18, 2007

November 15, 2007
The End of a Legend
Posted by Angry Midwesterner under Angry Midwestern Rants

I’ve been trying to write this post for a few days now, hoping it would get easier, but it really hasn’t. Finally I’ve just decided to knuckle down and write it, because I really feel I need to. Last Saturday Pete Conomikes, the long time coach for William and Mary Fencing, was killed in a car crash while driving to a fencing meet in Pennsylvania. Pete meant a lot to more people than I could count, and I think most of us who knew him secretly thought that he would live forever.

When I first met Pete, he was 80 years old, and yet somehow even at that age, he was coaching the Fencing team. I honestly don’t remember what my first impression was, but I’m sure I was skeptical that someone that old could coach such an active sport. I can’t remember what I thought, because those initial preconceived notions couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds. At 80 years old, Pete could kick the ass of anyone on the team. He was fast, agile, strong, and tireless. New members of the team always heard legends of his exploits, one of the most colorful being that he would smoke like a chimney under his mask while besting two students, a sword in each hand. The thing was, you never quite believed they were only legends. I remember several occasions when Pete would parry or thrust so quickly and so perfectly that I barely saw the action itself, his only remark, “When I was younger, I could do that quickly.” He was simply superhuman, moving faster and with more strength at over 80 years old than most people can manage in their prime.

His long life was filled with the kind of adventure that most of us can only read about in books. As a veteran from both World War II in the Navy and Vietnam in the Army, and later a member of the CIA, one can only begin to imagine his exploits as a younger man. As a fencer he began fencing with the Columbia University team, was A rated in all three weapons at one point, and winning competitions until he retired in 1986. Combined with the fact that he was still an amazing athlete at over 80 years of age, you can begin to see where the legends might have started, and why they were probably all true.

I was neither a very talented fencer, nor the best student, and to tell the truth I often wondered why Pete had picked me to join the team at tryouts. It wasn’t a question I ever asked, however, because despite my lack of skill, and the time it took me to learn the foot and blade work that was required, Pete always had time to work with me. I never questioned it, I was just thankful to have such a great teacher to guide me, and Pete was more than a great teacher, he was damn near perfect. He was never easy, and would push you until you got it right, and you would always tire before he did. All to often I was whacked over the mask with his Epee because I was slipping back into old habits that ruined my form, or slowed my response. I remember him repeating the same phrase for days as we practiced, “Your point should be DESCENDING as you are EXTENDING,” as I struggled to get my extensions correct. Even when I managed one correctly, he would make me repeat it until I had everything right consistently every time. It was incredibly frustrating, but I was learning, and when I finally got it correct his simple praise of “Good,” and then moving on to the next technique was worth more than you can imagine.

Pete inspired love and loyalty in all of his students. He was hard because he knew it would make you learn, and his praise was rare enough that when he gave it, you knew he meant it. It was all of the little things he did too, like the fact that he assembled all of our weapons personally. I still remember him pulling me aside and giving me my first Epee. It was an amazing experience, something I still think back to. Pete gave so much to the program, because he loved the sport, and loved the team. Even when the college canceled Fencing as a varsity sport in 1990 (due to Title IX restrictions), Pete continued to coach, using donations to continue the program.

Thank you Pete for over 35 years of commitment to William and Mary, for the thousands of lives you have touched, and for all you have taught us all. You will be missed.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all who loved Pete, and especially to the families of the fencers in the accident with him. I will be praying for their speedy recovery.

-Angry Midwesterner

2. sallehon - November 18, 2007

Fencing coach killed in accident
14 November 2007 | By Katie Boretsky, The Flat Hat | The Flat Hat » news
Two students listed in critical but stable condition after crash on way to fencing tournament

Peter S. Conomikes, the longtime coach of the College’s fencing team, was killed in a car accident on an interstate near Richmond Saturday afternoon. He was 86.

Two of the fencers in the car, Spencer Butts ’11 and Ben Gutenberg ’11, were seriously injured and were taken to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond for treatment.

“[They] are in critical but stable condition,” Sam Sadler, vice president for Student Affairs, said in an e-mail to students Sunday afternoon.

In yesterday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, Tom Hennig ’08, one of the captains of the fencing team, said that the two freshmen “are going to be in the hospital for a while, but they’re doing reasonably well.”

A third fencer, Matt Peppe ’11, was less seriously injured. He was treated for a broken wrist and was released from the hospital.
The College’s fencing team was on its way to compete in an event for the Middle Atlantic Collegiate Fencing Association in Haverford, Penn. Conomikes was driving three freshmen fencers in his car, while the rest of the team followed in a 15-passenger Student Activities van.

At about 1 p.m., approximately one hour into the trip, the two vehicles were traveling on I-295 near Richmond when the car suddenly veered off the road.

Luke Davis ’07, former president of the fencing team and a graduate student of chemistry at the College, was driving the van that carried the majority of the team and had a clear view of the accident.

“The short of it is that his car just swerved off the road to the left and drove straight into a tree,” Davis said.

He said that emergency vehicles from Henrico County arrived on the scene within five minutes of the accident.

The College responded immediately, offering support for the fencing team.

“The College has been phenomenal,” Davis said.

Recreational Sports has offered to pay for expenses related to the accident, including food and lodging for the families of the injured players. A counselor was brought in Saturday to talk to members of the team, and further counseling is available through the school. The dean of students arranged for those players who were not yet ready to deal with academic obligations to be excused from classes and exams for the week.

Davis said that fencing team members often ate together, especially before competitions. To encourage this tradition, Sadler signed up those team members who previously did not have College meal plans for dinner-only plans so that the fencers could eat together as a team for the rest of the semester.


3. sallehon - November 18, 2007

Hundreds pay tribute to late W & M fencing coach
Pete Conomikes guided generations of William and Mary fencers before dying in a car crash last weekend.
By SHAWN DAY 247-4816
November 17, 2007
WILLIAMSBURG — – Nearly 200 people gathered Friday at the College of William and Mary to remember the life of longtime fencing coach Pete Conomikes, who died last weekend.

The hourlong ceremony in University Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium drew family, friends, students and current and former fencing team members, who paid their respects to the legendary mentor. Conomikes died Nov. 10 after the car he was driving crashed into a tree in the Interstate 295 median near Richmond.

The 86-year-old coach was with three students heading to the final fencing meet of the semester when the crash occurred. The cause is still under investigation, according to the Virginia State Police.

Two of the three students injured in the crash remained hospitalized Friday at the Medical College of Virginia Hospital in Richmond, and the father of one of the students joined mourners at the memorial service for Conomikes.

Conomikes, the son of Greek immigrants, was raised in New York. He attended Columbia University, where he became a star fencer while helping raise his brother and run the family candy store after his father died, younger brother George Conomikes told mourners.

He always focused on helping others, Conomikes said.

“He was a coach, he was always coaching me,” he said. “It was innate to him.”

Conomikes recalled his brother’s service in the Navy during World War II, and his path to the Williamsburg area and Camp Peary, where he worked for the CIA before taking the reins of the William and Mary fencing program.

Other family and friends took the lectern to thank the coach for his impact on their lives and to share memories of him as a patient and wise mentor during his 35 years as coach at William and Mary.

Conomikes’ compassion and physical strength — illustrated by an ability to outmatch most of his students in fencing, despite being more than 60 years their senior — led some to jokingly refer to him as “God’s older brother.”

As such, stepson Alan Sikora said, “He felt it was his duty to make the world better.”


4. sallehon - November 28, 2007

The William and Mary family is mourning the loss of one of its own today. Freshman and fencing team member Ben Gutenberg passed away Tuesday as the result of injuries suffered in a Nov. 10 car accident near Richmond. College President Gene R. Nichol notified the campus community about the sad news in a message Tuesday afternoon.

“It is literally impossible to describe how heartbreaking the news is for Ben’s parents, for his teammates, for those who treasured his friendship on the campus and beyond. Their grief, and ours, is past bearing,” said Nichol.

Gutenberg had been traveling with the William and Mary fencing team on their way to Pennsylvania for a competition when the accident occurred. Beloved fencing coach Pete S. Conomikes was killed in the accident. A memorial for Conomikes, who coached fencing at the College for 35 years, was held at the University Center Nov. 16. 

Along with Gutenberg, two other William and Mary students were injured in the accident. Freshman Matt Peppe was treated and released from the hospital the day of the accident. Freshman Spencer Butts was seriously injured but has since been released from the hospital.

Since the accident, Gutenberg had been hospitalized in critical condition at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center . His family notified the College Tuesday afternoon that Ben had passed away.

”While we continue to reach out to those close to Ben, all of us should remember that the Counseling Center staff stands ready to help,” said Nichol. “Additionally, the Wren Chapel will be available throughout the day tomorrow for personal reflection.” 

Although Gutenberg had only been on campus for a few months, he made quite an impact on a number of people at the College. A Facebook group, “Pray for Ben Gutenberg,” was started by a William and Mary student after the accident and, as of today, has nearly 400 members. 

Staff members from the College are working closely with Gutenberg’s family on scheduling a memorial service later this week. Once arrangements have been finalized, notice will be sent to the campus.

”As our fencers have taught in recent days, the College, at its core, embodies a defining commitment to one another,” said Nichol in closing. “We’ll call on that powerfully in the days and weeks ahead.”


5. sallehon - November 29, 2007

Member of fencing club at William and Mary dies
By SHAWN DAY 247-4816
November 28, 2007
WILLIAMSBURG – — A College of William and Mary freshman has died of injuries he sustained in the Nov. 10 car crash that killed the college’s fencing club coach.

Ben Gutenberg, an 18-year-old from Rochester, N.Y., died Tuesday afternoon at Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, according to W&M spokesman Brian Whitson.

Gutenberg was the front seat passenger in the car carrying two other students and Pete S. Conomikes, the fencing club coach who was driving, state police Sgt. Tom Cunningham said.

The four were headed to Pennsylvania for the final fencing tournament of the semester when the crash occurred. A preliminary state police investigation determined the car ran off Interstate 295 near Interstate 95 and into the median, where it went down an embankment, crashed into a tree and rolled onto the driver’s side.

Conomikes died at the scene. Freshmen Matt Peppe and Spencer Butts were treated at the hospital. Peppe was released that day from the hospital; Butts was released after several days in the hospital, Whitson said.

A memorial service for Gutenberg is being planned for later this week, according to a campuswide e-mail sent by university President Gene Nichol.

Counselors were available to help grieving students, faculty and staff, Nichol wrote.


6. sallehon - November 30, 2007

Team, family mourn freshman
Senior captain touts teammate’s potential in fencing.
BY SHAWN DAY | 247-4816
November 30, 2007

WILLIAMSBURG — – As a freshman at the College of William and Mary, Ben Gutenberg quickly showed his fencing skills by nearly outdueling the school’s fencing club co-captain.

But the 18-year-old’s passion for the sport wasn’t his only legacy. Mourners who gathered on Thursday in the historic Wren Chapel for a memorial service remembered the teen as a compassionate and witty young man who often lent a hand to those around him.

Gutenberg, who came to the school from Rochester, N.Y., died Tuesday of injuries he suffered Nov. 10 in a car crash that also killed longtime university fencing coach Pete S. Conomikes. They were traveling to the final fencing tournament of the year when the car struck a tree in the median of Interstate 295 near Richmond. Two other freshmen in the car survived.

On Thursday, more than 100 people filled the chapel pews to reflect on Gutenberg’s strong spirit and sense of adventure. The Rev. Jeffrey Buffkin described Gutenberg as overcoming adversity from the beginning, as he was born three months early and weighed less than 3 pounds.

Gutenberg went on to earn high grades at a Jesuit high school, Buffkin said. In his short time at William and Mary, he developed a reputation as an avid video gamer and history enthusiast.

He also was among the top fencers at the university and on his way to a tournament in Pennsylvania when he was injured in the crash. Doctors initially thought he would recover from his injuries but later realized that damage to his arteries would prove irreparable and fatal, his father, Jeff Gutenberg, told mourners.

Tom Hennig, the senior and club co-captain who described Gutenberg as an up-and-coming fencer, said he had just begun to socialize with the freshman a few weeks before the crash.

He said he and other club members admired Gutenberg’s skills and love of the sport.

He recounted a team meal early in the semester during which Gutenberg took control of cooking before food burned atop a stove.

Afterward, as his teammates raved about the dish, Gutenberg downplayed the affair, Hennig said.

The next statement, Hennig said, was indicative of Gutenberg’s character.

“He said, ‘I didn’t care about the spaghetti,'” Hennig recalled. “‘ I just didn’t want the other guy to be made fun of.'”


7. sallehon - December 20, 2007

Event to honor crash victim

A reception will be held Saturday to honor the memory of a McQuaid Jesuit High School graduate who died last month following a car accident that also claimed the life of his college fencing coach.

Benjamin Gutenberg, 18, of Brighton, who was a freshman at the College of William and Mary, died Nov. 27. On Nov. 10, the car in which Gutenberg, fencing coach Pete Conomikes and two teammates were traveling crashed into the median along Interstate 295 at Interstate 95 while heading to Pennsylvania for the club team’s final tournament of the semester.

Driver Conomikes, 86, died at the scene. Gutenberg was taken to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center and died 17 days later. The other two fencers were treated at the hospital and released.

Gutenberg’s family is holding a reception for friends and family from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Brook Lea Country Club, 891 Pixley Road, Gates.

McQuaid Jesuit High School plans to hold a memorial service at 7 p.m. on Jan. 3.


8. http://tinyurl.com/cityclide53890 - January 9, 2013

This is certainly the 2nd blog, of yours I really browsed.
Nonetheless I actually like this specific one, “Fencing coach Pete Conomikes dies in accident, two students seriously injured Salle Honolulu Fencing Blog” the most.

Take care ,Jude

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