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Coach accused of abuse once honored in Alpena

News File Photo John Geddert is pictured in this 2013 photo after he was inducted into the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame. Geddert, an Alpena High graduate and former USA Gymnastics coach, died by suicide on Thursday shortly after the Michigan Attorney General’s Office charged him two dozen felonies related to allegations he turned his gym into a hub of human trafficking by coercing girls to train and then abusing them.

ALPENA — John Geddert, the USA Gymnastics coach who died by suicide on Thursday shortly after the Michigan Attorney General’s Office accused him of human trafficking and sexual abuse, left a footprint in Northeast Michigan.

Before leading Twistars USA Gymnastics club near Lansing and coaching teams that won more than 100 state titles and an Olympic gold medal, and before being publicly accused of abuse at a 2018 sentencing hearing for former Team USA doctor and admitted pedophile Larry Nassar, Geddert graduated in 1976 from Alpena High School.

Jack Discher, Geddert’s gymnastics coach at Alpena, told The News he saw no indication anything untoward lay in the young Geddert’s future. As far as Discher could tell, Geddert was a good athlete and a good kid.

Discher said the accusations surrounding Geddert’s suspension from USA Gymnastics in 2018 surprised and disappointed him.

“That isn’t the John that I knew,” Discher said. “I was really proud of him, until all of this stuff started.”

During his senior season with the Wildcats in 1976, Geddert was a top scorer for Alpena in floor exercise and finished fourth in horizontal bars during that season’s state final, according to News reports.

Geddert was one of many standouts for Alpena during the 1970s and 80s, a period during which the Wildcats won four state championships.

“We had a lot of success at Alpena,” Discher said. “Once they leave the program, you wish them well and hope they do well.

“Once kids get to a certain point, they make their own decision,” he said. “They chart their own path as to where they’re going to go and how they’re going to get there.”

Though Geddert eventually settled in the Lansing area, he still found occasion to visit Northeast Michigan and maintained a home here. According to Alcona County property records available online, John and Kathryn Geddert own a house on Hubbard Lake.

Geddert is listed once in Alpena County court records, for driving 21 to 25 mph over the speed limit in 1997, when he lived in Grand Ledge. He paid $155 in fines and court costs.

On the heels of leading the U.S. women’s team to Olympic gold in London in 2012, Geddert was honored in Northeast Michigan several times.

He was part of the 2012 class of the Alpena High Alumni Hall of Fame and was honored at homecoming that fall.

Members of that Hall of Fame are honored with a plaque that hangs in the school.

Alpena High principal Tom Berriman said Friday there is currently no plaque at the high school or any member of the Hall of Fame named John Geddert.

In 2013, Geddert was inducted into the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame as a member of its 2012 class. Geddert told The News at the time he was “humbled” by the honor.

During the induction banquet, Geddert, his wife, Kathryn, and Kurt Golder, an Alpena native and coach of the University of Michigan’s men’s gymnastics team, were presented keys to the city by Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora.

Geddert’s Sports Hall of Fame plaque was still hanging at the APlex as of Friday evening.

During his induction speech, Geddert said one of the most rewarding parts of his coaching career was impacting the lives of the gymnasts he taught.

“I get to live my passion every day,” Geddert said then. “I fell in love with the art of teaching kids, challenging them to do better and teaching them life skills. Sports undoubtedly shaped my life, and the examples set in sports set me down the right path.”

Geddert, 63, faced 24 charges that could have carried years in prison had he been convicted. He was supposed to appear in an Eaton County court, near Lansing, but his body was found at a rest area along Interstate 96, according to state police.

Nassar, who treated and abused many of the athletes who trained at Geddert’s gym, is serving an effective life sentence in federal prison after he was accused of abusing hundreds of athletes and patients under the guise of medical treatment and possessing thousands of images of child pornography.

The Associated press contributed to this report.

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