Komar The Magnificent

This column lost a good friend this week, Vernon “Komar” Craig of Wilmot, Ohio.

For many years Komar was two people.  By day he managed the Alpine-Alpa cheese store and clock shop appearing as a mild-mannered cheese-maker, full of smiles and stories.  But in the evening and on special occasions he became Komar, wearing his turban, silk pantaloons and doing feats that placed him in the Guinness Book of World Records.  He at one time held the record for the longest fire walk in the world, striding through white-hot coals in his bare feet.  Another time he held the record for the longest time spent lying on a bed of nails.

He made such an impression on the Guinness Book people that they included him in their hall of fame along with The Beatles Paul McCartney.  Statues of Komar can be found in Guinness Museums in many parts of the world.  In fact I was there when Guinness unveiled the Komar statue at the Niagara Falls, Canada museum.  Komar was also there demonstrating his skills by lying on a bed of nails while people stood on top of his chest.

Why did he do it?  It started out as a way for him to help publicize the needs of the mentally challenged.  He was also instrumental in the very first special Olympics founded by the Kennedy Family. 

Komar and I became friends over the years and he was always quick to volunteer to assist me each year when we would unveil a new “One Tank Trips” booklet at the Sportsman Show at the Cleveland IX Center.

Vernon “Komar” Craig passed away this week.  He was a very special Ohioan.  I shall miss him.

Ironically I had just finished writing a chapter about Vernon Craig in a new book I had just finished writing.

                                      NEW BOOK TO BE PUBLISHED

Gray & Co., Publishers of Cleveland announced this week that they will publish my latest book, “Tales From The Road” late this spring.

“Tales From The Road” is a memoir that Gray and Company Publisher David Gray asked me to write.  The book tells behind-the-scenes stories about my long-running One Tank Trips Program on Fox 8 Television.  It will introduce you to some of the unforgettable people I met along the way like Vernon Craig as well as recall what it was like coming of age on and off television in the last fifty years of the twentieth century.

The book will be available at major bookstores as well as on http://www.amazon.com.   It will also be available at the publisher, http://www.grayco.com

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8 Responses to Komar The Magnificent

  1. Alex says:

    I met Komar twice in England and Florence 2002/04. He was one of the most sincere and humble people I have ever had the pleasure to meet and yet there was unfathomable about him, almost ‘otherworldly’. It was a wonderful summer and I remember sitting out on the balcony with Vernon overlooking the rich Florentine countryside as he would share stories with great humour and wisdom almost like an oriental sage. Vernon’s memory will live on with those of us who were graced by his presence, I will never forget him.

  2. amanda long says:

    Komar lived next to me in wilmot ohio he was a very kind man.Iwould talk to him at the post office when i would see him.I was one of the lucky ones to get to know him.I heard a lot about him .

  3. Paul says:

    I was fortunate enough to spend time with Komar in the mid 70s’ while I was involved with a woman who put together a weekend seminar involving many people having unique qualities. Komar was a guest at a dinner party and impressed all of those who were present. I had the chance to talk to him just after he finished, and asked him about some of the spots on his back as they seemed to show just a bit of blood. His reply to me, after trying to look over his shoulder enough to see what I was talking about, was, “Well I never claimed to be perfect”!. There was a gathering for a select few of us in a private room after the dinner, and he was more than willing to fit in like old family. He told me the story of how he had found a book in the trash being thrown out at a place where he worked, which he became interested in and involved himself in process of learning. The book was ‘Science of Breath’ by Yogi Ramacharaka. It’s a small hard back and well worth reading. Though I don’t recommend trying any of what Komar was doing as you may not be ready for some time. He told me that he was quite young when he found the book and started studying.

    And if anyone still has contact with Marie, please ask her to contact me. It would be nice to share time with old friends again!

  4. AJ says:

    This is the most memorable man I had the pleasure of meeting while working at a video store in Massillon Ohio. Just looking at him you would think he was nothing more than a nice little old man, but after talking to him for just a few moments I realized that inside he was a wonderful and inspiring person, whom I will never forget.
    I looked forward to the days he would come into the video store and talk about the stories of his life.
    I will be forever grateful to have had the privilege of meeting such a fantastic person.
    Rest in peace Vernon.

  5. Neil says:

    Amen.

  6. Fred Strock says:

    Vernon Craig for many years was the head of grounds for the College of Wooster……..mid 60’s to mid 70’s, I think. My first “payroll” job as a teenager was working for him. He and his family lived in a home on Elm Drive in Wooster that he purchased from Dr. Harry Weckesser, DDS. Vernon was extremely industrious and seemed to have a never-ending threshold of energy. At his home he transformed the landscaping into a plush backyard paradise with irrigation and an expansive redwood deck…..years ahead of the pristene landscaping that you see at residences today. In addition to the landscaping that many of us “high-Schoolers” helped him with as a “side job” we also helped him with his magician “tools of the trade.” I remember assisting “Komar” in the fabrication and construction of the “next” generation of “nail bed” …made the radius between nails greater…we used a “jig” that Vernon fabricated to get the spacing exact…there must have been a couple of thousand nails…that were purchased in bulk from the old “Retzler Hardware” in downtown Wooster.

    A couple more anecdotes. Vernon was contracted by Rubbermaid to design and install the landscaping at thier new headquarters/warehouse complex in 1968 that was (is) located off of State Route 585 in Wooster…a move from the original Bowman & Palmer St. location. Additionally, I did not realize, at the time, why Vernon Craig was so family oriented and never imbibed any alcohol……He was (is) LDS Mormon…I did not understand the tenants of that faith until my daughter married a Mormon and converted to LDS.

    Great memories of a good and decent person!!
    Fred Strock, Chandler, AZ

    I can also provide Kister Mill stories…my family owned the mill from the 60’s to the 80’s…

  7. I was a senior at the College of Wooster in 1980, and took a picture of Vernon “Komar” during a performance for our spring festival (the name escapes me – maybe Alferd E. Packer?). I was fortunate enough to win the 3rd place prize for color photography in that year’s Cleveland Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine. It has been dormant for years, tucked away. I will make an effort to digitize it and share it with everybody. It is my finest photograph – color, composition, timing, and a STUNNING subject – and it’s a shame it’s been buried for years. Maybe we can sell copies to support one of Vernon’s or his family’s charities. – Marty Stanton, Class of ’80, COW

  8. mrittmaier says:

    Vernon was a regular customer at a video store I worked at in my early 20’s. He was a wonderful human. The world has lost a truly original person.

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