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Iron Man Magazine Co-Founder Mabel Rader Celebrates 100th Birthday

Mabel Responds with Gracious and Telling Note (see below)

Readers Comment on Mabel (see below)

Peary and Mabel Rader published Iron Man magazine for 50 years before selling it to photographer and bodybuilding aficionado John Balik in 1986. When the magazine came into being in 1936 it was one of the first of its kind in the United States. It’s only rival was Bob Hoffman’s Strength & Health, first published several years earlier. The magazine now bills itself as “The World’s Leading Bodybuilding Magazine Since 1936.”

While Peary died in 1991, at 82, Mabel continues to live an active life.

Jan and Terry Todd joined a gathering of over 100 family and friends to celebrate her 100th birthday at the Alliance (Nebraska) Senior Services Center. They tell us that Mabel still lives in the home she and Peary purchased years ago, that she is very bright and alert, and gets around well mostly with the aid of a walker.

The Alliance Times reported the festive details. Those celebrating with her were treated to barbeque sandwiches with beans and coleslaw. A friend made a German Chocolate cake (Mabel's favorite) with three candles molded to make “100.” Her son Jack sat across from her with balloons. After blowing out the candles, she told the gathering, “I want to thank you all for celebrating my birthday with me.”

Mabel told the Times she loves to read, with animal stories and westerns being her favorites. You can bet that she also goes to church on Sunday. Asked how she feels turning 100, she said, “Great.”

 Photo from the Alliance Times

Mabel deserves some down time, having led an amazing and productive life. A unique life.

Professor Jan Todd, co-director (with Terry) of the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas at Austin (a national champion in powerlifting and the first women to officially squat with 500 pounds), regaled the gathering with details of Mabel’s pioneering role in the strength sports, especially for women. (News to many of them.)

Mabel and Peary published Iron Man from their home. The magazine was their life.

At almost six feet tall, Peary had gained 100 pounds, going from a scrawny 120 pounds to a muscular 220, mainly by doing high-repetition squats and drinking milk. He wanted to tell the world about his transformation. He and Mabel did that in many ways over the next 50 years. Mabel focused on the bookwork and handled administrative details, leaving Peary free to work on magazine content.

She also became deeply involved in sports administration.

They worked arm-in-arm. And how! They became the first and only couple to be inducted into the hall of fame in all three strength sports: weightlifting, physique, and powerlifting. She was also the first woman referee in all three sports. More recently, in 2004, she was among the first group to be induced into the USAPL Women’s Hall of Fame.

*  * *

Peary and Mabel Rader gave me a start on what has become my life's work.

They reported on my Olympic lifting and carried photos of me in Lifting News, which they also published for many years. When I turned to bodybuilding in my 30s, they were the first to publish physique photos of me and carry my articles on diet, training, and other matters.

Carol and I visited the Raders in Alliance numerous times. Our first trip was to compete in a regional Olympic lifting contest they organized. After I finished lifting, we visited with Peary and Mabel in their home. They welcomed us with open arms. It was the beginning of a decades-long relationship. (I have spoken with many others who have dropped in on Peary and Mabel. Always the same story of welcome and warmth.)

We got to know them better as time went on, often enjoying Mabel’s fruit pies—Peary loved them—and sleeping in their guest room.

They owned and operated a commercial printing business, which produced Iron Man in a building behind their home. Peary also wrote and they produced a series of training booklets.

They also offered a full line of weight training equipment. (We bought an Eleiko Olympic Weightlifting set from them, which I still use.)

Perhaps their most unique and famous offering was the Magic Circle: http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2010/06/magic-circle-and-its-uses-peary-rader.html

One of our visits was shortly after Dr. Kenneth Cooper published his book Aerobics. Carol and I had taken up jogging and inquired about a place to jog. They took us to a dirt race track for cars and motorcycles. And jogged with us! I can see them now, jogging around the track—in street clothes and regular shoes. It was true hospitality by an unassuming couple.

I mentioned earlier that Mabel handled administrative matters to free up Peary to focus on other things. An example she shared with us involved the IRS. She kept Peary in the dark when they were required to pay a substantial penalty for being short on their quarterly installments during the Arthur Jones ground swell of activity. No need for Peary to know and handling such matters allowed him to focus on writing, editing, and putting the magazine together. (Carol does much the same for us. I talk, research, write, and train, and she does everything else. It's a full time job.)

We had years of contact with Peary and Mabel—and at one time considered buying Iron Man. The Raders had their lawyer draw up a sales contract at one point. We were honored that they would trust us to carry on for them, but decided that it was more than we wanted to take on at that time. As things turned out, it was the right decision for us and for the magazine.

Mabel Rader is a true pioneer of strength sports, especially for women. A life to remember and treasure.

Happy Birthday, Mabel. We love and respect how you lived your life while Peary was alive and after he was gone. Stay strong.

You’ll find more details about Mabel on the USA Powerlifting website: http://www.usapowerlifting.com/womens-hall-of-fame/mabel-rader/

August 1, 2017 

*  *  * 

Mabel Responds with Gracious and Telling Thank You Note



If ever there was a role model for centenarians it's Mabel Rader. Not only does she take care of herself, she is aware of what's going on in her "group" and coming events on the world calendar. Her handwriting is sure and steady, expressing the thoughts of a fully functioning and engaged human being.

We love you Mabel. Open road ahead.

PS: See "Living to 100" about the new and growing pattern of aging:  http://www.cbass.com/LIVINGTO.HTM

September 1, 2017

*  *  *

Readers Comment on Mabel

I loved the note from Mabel Rader and the fact that you were able to just print a picture of it on your site. That way we could all see what excellent cursive writing she still has at age 100 and overall just how sharp she still is. That must have truly made your and Carol’s day when you got that hand-written note! I hope that I’m still that engaged with the rest of the world if I’m lucky enough to make it to 100.

Dan Keating, Professor of Law

Thank you for the excellent articles the last 2 months. I loved the Mabel Rader pieces. In the late 70s early 80s I was working with Walt Baptiste and following his training. Iron Man was the only magazine I read. I kept every one....I loved and still love the mom and pop element of that publication. wonderful, great people, real examples of Americana to me. Honest and unabashed.

Your recent piece on cognitive health really struck a chord. Wonderful. About 15 % of my patients and about 50% of my elderly fracture patients have cognitive issues....

You are really leading the way in showing that life can be lived well and long in modern society without tremendous austerity, "life hacks" and other nonsense. The blue zones are great but they are mostly poor folks in isolated rural areas some of whom life lessons are applicable to us but some not.

Wade Smith, MD

Interesting article [on Mabel Rader]. As a long-time reader of Iron Man, I am disappointed in the current magazine. It seems to cater to the younger fitness audience, and is forgetting the old folks. I appreciate what the Raders and John Balik did to preserve Iron Game history. As an aside, I was sad to find out that Bill Starr, a long-time writer for the magazine, passed away two years ago. Not a blip or a mention in any of the current magazines, he deserved better. Interestingly enough, his passing was mentioned in a lot of the Cross fit, and personal training blogs. Times are changing. That is why I like reading your site so much. It balances the pioneers and emerging trends.

Frank Signorile

August 1, 2017

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