Deseret News – March 25, 1957
By Les Goates
“EVERYBODY’S FRIEND” was Ira Dern. He was known from coast to coast. His name was on the sports pages all over the land for a quarter of a century. He was champion in his chosen field and generously endowed with natural ability in many other forms of athletics. When Ira was called out by the Great Referee, a grand old trooper was retired from this realm of human endeavor.
Ira Dern was a champion in the ancient art of wrestling. He was one of the best – undoubtedly. Many of his opponents, and he met and defeated the best of them, said he was the best man for his weight and inches in the world! He held two world’s championships. The middleweight and light heavyweight titles.
Dern belonged to the so-called “Golden Era of Sports,” which produced the greatest ever – Jack Dempsey, who was Ira’s firm friend, fellow Utahn and world’s heavyweight boxing champion; Babe Ruth, in baseball; Bobby Jones in golf; Bill Tilden in tennis and Ed Lewis and Jimmy Londos in wrestling. No contestant, even among these, was more colorful or more spectacular. He “had it,” as the promoters were wont to say.
MANY TRIBUTES are being spoken and written these past few days about this man. He is praised for his tremendous physical prowess, his innate skill, dauntless courage and sporting spirit. To these we would like to add a laurel sprig about the true nature of the man – especially his amazing knowledge of persons and places, his splendid civic pride, his boundless sense of humor and above all these, his great big heart!
Dern never went to college, but his all-around knowledge was astounding. He remembered everybody, everywhere his many engagements took him. His interest in community problems was unexcelled. He was friend and confident of many a successful office holder.
Few there have been more kindly and sympathetic toward those less fortunate than he. Many were the times Ira would pick up some ragged little street urchin, take him into a nearby store and fit him out with new shoes, a jacket or trousers.
Ira was a soft touch for down-and-out boxers and wrestlers. He couldn’t say no to anybody who needed help. Anonymously, he put many an old pal or promising youngster back on his feet or staved him over a spell of tough luck.
It was ironical that he himself ran up against the tough breaks. For years he has been badly crippled with a cruel and unrelenting disease, but not until he was thrown for this last fall, did he ever let anybody know the extent of his suffering. Whatever Ira Dern did in life that was wrong, he atoned for it, in the crucible of afflication.