James M. Gehrdes

James M. Gehrdes

James M. "Jim" Gehrdes, who had headed the physical education department at the Naval Academy and had also been a storied track coach, died July 27 of respiratory failure at his Annapolis home.

He was 87.

The son of a Pennsylvania Railroad brakeman and a food service worker, James Milton Gehrdes was born and raised in Altoona, Pa., where he graduated in 1943.

During his high school years, he had been a star football halfback and had won several state championships in track. His accomplishment of sweeping both hurdle events in the 1943 state outdoor track meet remained unbroken until 2009.

He enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school and served with an infantry unit in Europe until being discharged in 1946.

Mr. Gehrdes attended Drake University for a year before transferring to Penn State, where he played football and lettered in indoor and outdoor track.

By the time he graduated from Penn State in 1950, he held every hurdle record at the university, and set a world record in the 70-yard high hurdles that still stands. He was also a three-time All-American in outdoor track, won three Penn Relay championships and four IC4A titles.

In 1948, Mr. Gehrdes was an alternate for the 1948 U.S. Olympic team.

He began his career as the head cross country and assistant track coach at the Naval Academy in 1953, and by the early 1960s, was named head indoor and outdoor track coach.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Gehrdes coached four NCAA champions, 5 All-Americans, numerous IC4A and Heptagonal champions, three Olympic alternates, and captured two Heptagonal cross country championships and two Heptagonal indoor track championships.

He headed the physical education department from 1980 until retiring in 1987. In 1989, he was inducted into the Blair County [Pa.] Sports Hall of Fame.

Mr. Gehrdes was an accomplished woodworker and enjoyed restoring furniture. He also liked to play badminton, squash and tennis. He enjoyed fishing and attending the Indy 500.

Funeral services will be held 11:30 a.m. Tuesdayat the Taylor Funeral Home, 147 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis.

Surviving are his wife of 60 years, the former Delora Hinerman; two sons, David Gehrdes of Annapolis and Dan Gehrdes of Queen Anne; a daughter, Dona Gehrdes of Annapolis; a sister, Sara Bainbridge of Absecon, N.J.; and six grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltusn.com