Trampoline inventor, former Cedar Rapids businessman George Nissen dies at 96 | The Gazette

    george nissen, inventor of the trampoline and known for doing handstands wherever he went, died wednesday in san diego. he was 96 years old.

    Now the Iowa native is probably doing a handstand in heaven.

    “That’s what someone else said,” his daughter Dian Ramírez said with a smile. “he’s probably jumping on a trampoline there.”

    “and with ease,” added dagmar munn, his other daughter. “Joints don’t hurt.”

    nissen, a cup and fitness fanatic, most likely since he came out of his mother’s womb on feb. On January 1, 1914, in Blairstown, he was healthy until he went to the hospital on Sunday afternoon. diagnosed with pneumonia, he died surrounded by his family, including his wife, annie, whom he married 59 years ago, jan. 24.

    “He just kept going,” said Ramirez, director of physical conditioning at San Diego Tennis & racket club “their deal with him was to make each year more exciting than the last.”

    Nissen, a graduate of Cedar Rapids Washington High School, was scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He had also planned to present the Nissen-Emery Award for the nation’s best senior male gymnast at next week’s National Collegiate Meet in the USA. uu. military academy in west point, n.y.

    “He only missed it a couple of times (since 1966),” said Ramírez. “I think I knew it would be the last time.”

    This past September, Nissen held his annual meeting with fitness guru and longtime friend Jack Lalanne in Las Vegas. Nissen always called lalanne “the spring hen” because he was eight months younger than nissen.

    When lalanne began promoting physical exercise in the 1930s, nissen became fascinated with the safety nets used by circus trapeze artists. he stretched a tarp over a crude frame with springs made from tire inner tubes and demonstrated it at a ymca summer camp.

    in 1941, he and larry griswold, his gymnastics coach at the university of iowa, built his first “rebound spin” device. Eventually, Cedar Rapids-based Nissen Trampoline became the world’s largest manufacturer of fitness equipment.

    “I was very, very energized,” said munn, who lives in green valley, arizona, and has worked with the st. luke’s hospital in cedar rapids for 29 years.

    “He was a fabulous person to work with,” said Norm Barnes of Cedar Rapids, a 37-year employee of the Nissen company. “He threw great Christmas parties for the employees.”

    One year, Nissen built a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree out of trampolines.

    again, recalls cedar rapids’ tom ecker, a former friend and former employee, nissen put a little japanese car on one of the company’s ping-pong tables to show how tough it was.

    “I was calm and full of energy,” Ecker said. “Other people who traveled with him said he never had to eat, sleep or urinate.”

    The trampoline, named after the Spanish word trampolín, meaning trampoline, became Nissen’s baby. he traveled the world promoting it in the hope that it would one day become an olympic sport, which it did in 2000. he attended those games in sydney, australia to take the ceremonial first leap.

    As a Navy veteran, Nissen’s cremated remains will be interred at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. He was a flight instructor during World War II and used his springboard to improve pilots’ timing and coordination.

    “He was a great guy, a fantastic father, a great role model,” said Ramírez. “He did some fantastic things. we really love it.”

    and here’s a link to a november 1999 gazette profile on nissen.

    here is an excerpt from a google books:

    and here is a link to a video showing nissen (embedding off) demonstrating gymnastics moves, called

    “in the air”.

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