Bert Anselmi - In Memorium
On September 12, 2009, Bert Anselmi at age 81 succumbed after a lengthy and debilitating illness, which robbed him of the ability to continue his productive and useful life. Thus passed one of the last remaining Twelve Titans of Roller Skating who led the USA roller sports industry to its 20th Century Golden Age. Bert was a major contributor, as well as one of a handful of association leaders who over a lifetime in sport elicited both respect and affection for continuously nudging his sport and industry forward to its full potential. But first and foremost in his life, Bert was a beloved family man, as was his father Tony before him. He is survived by his loving wife of 60 years Lynn (nee Marilyn Lampkin); sons Kurt (Terry) and Tobin (Kim), daughters Kim (Mark) Majoros and Holly; his sister Laurene (Bud) Patton; and his grandchildren Terese, Tony, Stephanie, Zachary and Daniel. The Anselmi family has owned and operated the Rolladium Skating Center in Waterford (Pontiac), Michigan for nearly 60 years.
When a quiet man such as Bert takes on the mantle of leadership within such a diverse community of associate members in the roller skating sport, this presents enough difficulty in just winning approval of simple majority, and yet Bert leaves his life not only recognized as one of our most effective leaders, but also a person who commanded the respect of those who might even disagree with some of his agenda. His leadership style was never presumptuous and he left no doubt with anyone of the sincerity of his motives. Bert preferred to work for building consensus on his proposals, which aided in being more effective with gaining support and benefitted the durability of these results.
Bert's father Tony and mother Alice Anselmi entered rink operation in 1942 with a very small rink attached to the family grocery business in Waterford Township on the outskirts of Pontiac, Michigan. At age 14 Bert naturally became involved in the sport of roller skating. The most successful competitive skater in the Anselmi family was Bert's much younger sister Laurene, who was a natural super-star figure and free skating champion, winning the National Juvenile Division in 1947, with continuing gold medal successes each year, finishing in 1954 as four-time Senior champion in both Figures and Singles. Laurene acquired a pairs and dance partner, Paul Lampkin, which produced additional competitive medals for the duo. Bert was attracted to his future wife Lynn at the rink, who was the older sister of his sister's pairs partner, Paul. In the late 1940's Bert and Lynn formed a competitive dance team, achieving moderate success in Michigan and Great Lakes Regional Championships. It greatly disturbed proud papa Tony that his children had to travel to Detroit to take their lessons and to practice skating on a competition sized floor. In 1950, Tony, with the sole help of Bert, built a new larger rink on additional property he owned adjacent to the old rink. He installed a first class curved-corner maple floor of a size that would never again require apology for either size or quality.
Over the years the Anselmi's were to make further enhancements to the basic rink as their business developed. Bert and wife Lynn turned professional in 1950 to teach at the new facility. Bert managed the instructional staff and the session programming. Laurene retired from competition in 1954 to join the Rolladium teaching staff. The rink and teaching program prospered, as their rural area developed and eventually became enveloped by the city of Pontiac. The rink's competitive skating team won their first National Championship Haney High Point Trophy in 1954, which was awarded to the skating club that amasses the most number of National Championships points as computed for each artistic division according to the number of entries in a given event, with the last place getting 1 point and first place points reflecting total entry number. This was to be the first of 10 nearly consecutive Haney Trophy wins for the Rolladium during the next 11 years, until the trophy was retired in 1964. The Haney Trophy was larger than the NHL Stanley Cup, mainly consisting of heavy hard wood and became a real chore for Bert to lug to and from the Nationals every year, so the nationals officials finally just gave it to him.
A well-connected skating parent, helped Bert win approval by the Girl Scouts of America for the first ever skating badge for Girl Scouts, offered for the first time at the Pontiac Rolladium. The Girl Scout Merit Badge program became a popular instructional program throughout the nation's RSROA rinks.
In 1958 Bert received the Teacher of the Year Award for having the most number of Gold Medal winners at the National Championships. He was also named to be the World Championship Team Coach for Team USA on its first trip to a World Championship outside of the United States, and spent the 1958-59 Christmas/New Year Holidays in Christchurch, New Zealand with a team of 18 very successful artistic and speed skaters. Bert Anselmi was to repeat five times as USA World Artistic Team Coach. He and Lynn were made Life Members of the Society of Roller Skating Teachers of America; they were both elected to the USARS Coaches Hall of fame in 1992 and to the USARS Distinguished Service Hall of Fame in 1995. Bert Anselmi was inducted into the RSROA (RSA) Hall of Fame in 1997. As his organizational responsibilities grew, Bert was pretty much forced to give up scheduled competitive teaching in the 1970's due to constraints on his time. He willingly did so, at personal financial sacrifice.
The progress of his recognition and rise within the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSROA), now called the Roller Skating Association (RSA): Bert Anselmi was elected RSROA Michigan State Chapter President 1959-62. He was elected a RSROA National Vice-President in 1960 and then elevated to the RSROA National Board of Directors in 1962, serving continuously as a member of the Board into 1982, during which time he was elected by the membership as RSROA President to three one-year terms, 1972-73-74. This in itself was a tribute to the man as most Presidential reigns were limited to two years. In 1974, as RSROA President, Bert Anselmi was made a National Vice-President of the Muscular Dystrophy Association in recognition for the large contributions that the roller skating industry was making annually to MDA fund raising. Recognizing his varied and extensive experience in the roller skating industry, Bert Anselmi served on the RSROA Executive Committee during nearly all his tenure on the RSROA Board. Bert was named Rink Operator of the Year in 1972 and made a Life Member of the RSROA in 1976.
In 1972, Bert Anselmi played a prominent part in making the roller skating industry united and whole once again. In 1940, because of internal RSROA politics, a group of Eastern rink operators grew dissatisfied with the RSROA leadership and broke away to form a rival United Rink Operators organization. This was said to be done for the interest of "amateur competitive roller skating" being set free from professional control of the RSROA. The URO consequently set up and financed a rival amateur skating group that took over the FIRS franchise, during the era of Avery Brundage Olympic amateurism, which today is a totally dead issue worldwide. Some thirty years later, with most of the original principals to the dissention now dead, an effort was initiated to piece back together the roller sport and industry. That this was accomplished during the Presidency of Bert Anselmi required all his tact and diplomacy to allay fears by the USARS leaders that they were selling out their amateur principles. Bert carried off his diplomatic assignment admirably with success for the merger. The unity agreement required separate incorporation of the combined amateur organization as successor to both RSROA and USARSA programs. After a couple of later title modifications, the new group is known today as USA Roller Sports. RSROA President Anselmi was also saddled with the difficult task of separating the RSROA from amateur competitive roller skating, for the first time in its history, and for creating a stronger identity within the RSROA as the premier industry trade association and leader, no longer associated with control of amateur roller skating competitions. During Bert's terms as President, the size of the RSROA National Headquarters in Lincoln was expanded by 50% and a commercial sized 4 color printing facility was installed and staffed to assure better communication and promotional service for the RSROA membership. The RSROA membership expanded proportionately and subsequent successes have proven Bert's effectiveness in his launch of these projects.
In 1973 Bert Anselmi, while still President of the RSROA, was installed as one of the first Directors on the Board of the new competitive organization, USARS, to help provide assistance for its transition to independence as an amateur sport group. He served one three-year term on the Board of USARS before refocusing on his responsibilities as a RSROA Board member. Bert was a strong believer in the preservation of the rich history of roller skating. In 1980 RSROA Executive Director George Pickard asked Bert to participate along with him and RSROA President Marvin Facher and RSROA Finance Committee Chairman Bob Bollinger in the organization of the National Museum of Roller Skating, which was to be set up in a former storage area at the RSROA Headquarters, and receive initial funding from the RSROA until the Museum could subsist on its own as a non-profit corporation. With three additional interested members acting as the first Trustees, the museum was incorporated; museum staff hired, fixtures purchased and artifacts were assembled. Bert Anselmi was elected by the Trustees as the first Museum President and continued to serve in that capacity, being reelected annually as President for 23 consecutive years at the annual meeting of an ever evolving Board of Trustees, until he had to resign for reasons of health in 2003. Next year the museum will celebrate its 30th anniversary, and is now recognized nationally as a bona-fide member of the national museum community.
Bert Anselmi was an admired figure within the roller skating industry throughout his tenure as an officer of the RSROA, USARS, Roller Skating Foundation and National Museum of Roller Skating. He was an icon for sportsmanship throughout his long career in roller skating as a coach, rink operator, industry leader, board member, councilor, advisor and friend. Bert was an in-demand leader of this industry because he did not possess the ability to say no to the needs of his sport. He was a man both ready and able to give back to this sport for a lifetime during which it had sustained both his body and soul. He leaves behind several organizations that will sorely miss his wise counsel and leadership.
George Pickard, a friend.