PHOTOS: High school dedicates stadium track and gate to late Boyertown running legend

Community members use the track at Boyertown Area Senior High School. The track will be dedicated to the late Jerry Karver, a Boyertown running legend.
Community members use the track at Boyertown Area Senior High School. The track will be dedicated to the late Jerry Karver, a Boyertown running legend. Submitted Photo — Wellness Council of Boyertown

BOYERTOWN >> The passion and dedication to a community is like that of a runner’s heart: fiery, driven and humble when the finish line is finally crossed.

This is the legacy left behind by Gerald “Jerry” Karver, a Boyertown native who died at the age of 93 on Aug. 1, 2016. Because of Karver’s life achievements and contributions to the borough; a gateway into the track at Boyertown Area Senior High School’s Memorial Stadium as well as the track itself will be dedicated to him.

Throughout his life Karver was dedicated to and supportive of the Boyertown community; the area where he had lived all his life minus a six-year period during the 1940s when he attended Penn State University and served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II.

Karver was quite the runner in his younger years. In fact, he was one of the top milers in the U.S. He was a six-time Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) champion in high school and a member of the 1942 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship winning cross-country team at Penn State.

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In 1947, he became only the second man ever to hold all of the major national mile titles in the same year when he won the one-mile championships for the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A), the national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) , and the NCAA. He narrowly missed earning a berth on the United States Olympic team in 1948 when he lost a photo finish for third place at the Olympic Trials.

After coming home, Karver became heavily involved in the local community. He became a member of the Boyertown Lions Club in 1948 and the co-owner of a toy store called Karver & Fry Toys and Gifts. He was actively involved in fundraising opportunities later in his life. He successfully funded a 400-meter synthetic all-weather track for Memorial Stadium in 2006 with the Victory Mile committee, a subcommittee under the Wellness Council of Boyertown.

“The track was very necessary, as the old one just wasn’t up to par with the needs of the school,” said Barb Furman, chairperson of the wellness council. “We wanted to not only help out the high school but make it accessible for the community.”

“The track is open to the community from dawn until dusk including weekends and holidays. Community members are encouraged to use the outer four lanes,” according to the wellness council’s website boyertownwellness.com.

Memorial Stadium hosts events such as the Pioneer Athletic Conference Track & Field Championship meet, the Venzke Relays, and various PIAA playoff events, according to the school’s website, www.boyertownasd.org.

In addition to school-sponsored events, the wellness council also holds their own activities such as Senior Walking Bingo and a Thanksgiving Day “Turkey Trot” 5K and 1-mile walk.

Jeff Karver, son of the late Jerry Karver, said that the track meant a lot to his father.

“He was exercising on that track right up until the day he passed,” Karver said. “I know he is proud to see it being used.”

At a recent school board meeting, it was officially approved to dedicate the track to Jerry Karver in recognition of his achievements.

The “Gateway to Greatness” project is a new fundraising effort to install a new gate for the stadium. Jill Vincent, director of the wellness council, said the physical gate will serve not only as a monument to Karver’s legacy but to commemorate the past, present and future athletes of Boyertown.

“We’re very excited to partner with the Karver family and community,” Vincent said. “We hope that the community gets involved and inspires the athletes in our community. The sky is the limit.”

The design and project management will be headed up by Boyertown alumnus Dave Horn and his company, Architerra. The company has designed countless athletic fields, both high school and collegiate. Horn was a big part of the initial construction of the track in 2006.

The gate replaces 80 feet of existing fencing near the start and finish line of the track, complementing the existing gate architecture at the opposite entrance to the stadium. It will have “Jerry Karver Track” emblazoned in gold lettering on the top of the entrance.

In addition to that, bronze “story plaques” will be placed on the gate to give a history of Karver’s life and accomplishments. A space of brick on the gate will be reserved for other athletes to be honored in the future.

“He really loved this area,” Karver said. “I’m hoping that this inspires future athletes to really rise up and give back to their community as he did.”

After a fundraising campaign by the Victory Mile committee, the gate will hopefully be completed for the 2017-2018 school year.

Jerry Karver’s obituary can be found at www.boyertownwellness.org/jerry-karver.html.