Longtime Gym Dandys owner left legacy

August 11, 2014

Danny Warbutton, a longtime gymnastics coach and founder of Gym Dandys gymnastics training center in Meadow Lands, died last week in Myrtle Beach, S.C., from complications of bladder cancer. He was 64.

Born Aug. 18, 1949, Warbutton was a graduate of Belle Vernon High School, where he took up gymnastics following a serious injury playing junior high football.

The injury ended his football playing career but he exceled in gymnastics, playing a big part in three PIAA championship teams. He also was a two-time WPIAL and one-time PIAA all-around champion, earning a scholarship to Georgia Southern University. He will be inducted into that school’s sports hall of fame later this year.

A three-time All-America gymnast at Georgia Southern, Warbutton finished 10th in the 1972 Olympic Trials, a finish that prompted his move into coaching.

“After the Olympic Trials, all of a sudden it seemed like everything was ending,” Warbutton told the Tuscaloosa News in 1981. “I didn’t know what to do. I could have gotten mad and hated gymnastics, or I could keep trying and come back gracefully, give something back to gymnastics.”

Thankfully, for the gymnastics world, Warbutton chose the latter.

He began coaching gymnastics and, in 1976, took out a loan for $300,000, a huge sum at the time, to fund a building in Meadow Lands to be used solely for gymnastics workouts, Gym Dandys.

“He was like a second dad to a lot of kids,” said Karen Clark, who along with Scott Miller eventually purchased Gym Dandys from Warbutton. “Back in those days, there weren’t a lot of sports opportunities for girls. But we’d pile 15 girls in a van for a meet and it was basically us chaperoning them for the weekend.”

In addition to running Gym Dandys, Warbutton also stayed active on the national stage.

He was chosen to coach the United States team in 1977 and also coached U.S. national teams in South Africa, East Germany and England.

Warbutton served for International and Olympic Team selection, the National Coaching Staff and was the first receipient of the Pennsylvania Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988.

He coached 10 state championship teams and numerous state, regional and national champions. More than 50 of his gymnasts went on to earn college scholarships.

“He didn’t care whether it was one of his own gymnasts or somebody from a competing team, he would help them out if they or their coach asked,” said Clark. “If he saw some talent there, he’d let schools know about them. He was that type of person.”

Warbutton, who also served as an assistant coach at West Virginia University in 2002 and 2003, but semi-retired in 2004 from Gym Dandys, eventually moving to Myrtle Beach.

While in Myrtle Beach, Warbutton worked part-time in his retirement as a competitive team coach for Gymnastics & More, a center owned by a former Gym Dandys trainers, Louie Ligouri.

Warbutton is survived by his wife, Sue, two sons, Bobby and Steven, his sister, Lorie, and a grandson, Luke.

A pair of memorial services will be held for Warbutton. The first will be in Myrtle Beach, S.C., later this week. Locally, there will be a service at 11 a.m. Sat, Aug. 23, at the Avery United Methodist Church, 1100 Gabby Ave., Washington.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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