A Weight He Couldn't Lift
Friday, April 8th North Olmstead Ohio, John Julius was arrested for Attempted Abduction, and a host of other charges, after allegedly assaulting a motorist in Westlake and forcing him to drive him around the city while he recounted tales of being God and that he was being chased. But, this story doesn’t begin or end here; it is only the middle of what has been a difficult time in a noteworthy life.
Thirty years ago, Butler, Pennsylvania, The Midwest Olympic Weightlifting Championships…
The immovable object, an Olympic Barbell loaded with 435 Lbs., somehow is lifted easily off the floor by this muscular young man who meets the weight at his shoulders and stands up almost effortlessly to get set to lift it over his head, and complete the Clean and Jerk. When John finally puts the weight down, he is the number-one-ranked lifter in the free world at less than 200Lbs. What has transpired from that moment to his arrest on Friday is the story of a man at war with his own psyche. It is the story that many loved ones of family and friends with emotional problems and clinical mental illness live through and live with. The borderline, mentally-impaired, but medically treatable, are often the most difficult, challenging and affecting, because they live with us, and are often incredibly talented and engaging. This is just part of John’s story.
I worked and trained with John for years up until the late 80’s. John was always very high-energy, driven to overachievement and needful of everyone’s approval. Inherently nice, he couldn’t do enough for his friends, and was almost overwhelming in his affection. His fiancé would come home to a roomful of rose petals and love poems. He would get our company meetings with buyers that other salesmen could only dream about. As an athlete, he was simply the best, although virtually uncoachable as he seemed to have to do things his own way. I moved away and lost touch with John and just recently reconnected with him upon moving back to Cleveland.
To all outward appearances, John was very much the same…except as we spent more time together there were telltale warning signs, and in retrospect, I feel that we let John down…we should have known he was skating close to the edge. John was still the guy who couldn’t do enough for you. But, now it was overboard. He WAS overwhelming…My daughter mentioned that she liked Danielle Steele. The next day she was handed twenty hard cover copies of her books. He virtually fired the workers I had hired to remodel the upstairs, taking over the job himself. Our old coach’s wife got very ill and was hospitalized; John didn’t leave her side for days. He had a girlfriend that was the greatest relationship he ever had, only soon she turned out to be a mistake. Another girl who he had just met was at odds with him very quickly and messily. He was put on an enforced leave of absence from his job, and was also in the middle of a difficult custody battle with his ex-wife. On top of all these personal issues, John was training not just for weightlifting, but wrestling as well, and was talking seriously about national titles in both…all at 54 years of age. John didn’t seem to have many close friends, but knew everybody. I couldn’t keep up with all of his activities. His intensity and difficulty with interpersonal relationships, and a history of mood swings necessitating Psychiatric intervention and medication were all thrown into the turbulent mix.
John was supposed to be wrestling at Public Hall in the National Championships the day of his arrest. I last spoke with him on Tuesday, when he asked me to coach him. I never heard back from him, and couldn’t reach him by phone. Then on Friday evening my phone started ringing after the sensationalized story of this “Dumbbell” appeared on the news.
Hopefully, the justice system will quickly recognize the lack of any malevolence in John, and that he just needs some help. But, it sure makes you wonder when you hear about trouble in someone’s life, and you watch the newscaster relay in cute sound bites the horror taking place before the camera what the rest of the story is.