Paul Larocco of the Press-Enterprise featured a loving tribute to Ray Routledge.
Mr. America muscleman, Ray Routledge
By PAUL LAROCCO
When coroner’s officials found Ray Routledge on Wednesday, there was no one to claim him and nothing but his subsidized senior apartment in San Bernardino.
But by the time a son surfaced in Colorado on Friday afternoon, there was a rich story to be told of the 77-year-old who once took the world’s biggest muscleman titles in the same year.
He was a young airman who flew from a base in Germany to win Mr. America in 1961. He was a pitchman and actor who once appeared in “The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant” alongside Oscar-nominee Bruce Dern. He owned a gym and even found time to become a prison guard and travel the United States — alone — for 17 years.
“Everyone I ever met, I always made mention of Ray Routledge,” said Dan Watson, a 68-year-old Moreno Valley resident who served with him at Rhein-Main Air Force base outside Frankfurt in the early 1960s. “So many times, nobody knew who he was and it was very hard for me to deal with.
“And to learn that he was just up the road,” Watson continued, a choke in his voice. “If I would have known he was there, you betcha I would have gone there.”
Watson spotted Routledge while he bench pressed at the base gym, just before he became Mr. America and amateur Mr. Universe. He said the gentlemanly bodybuilder wanted to be even stronger to compensate for the half-point he was docked in a prior competition for his tattoo.
Years earlier, Jim Simmons met Routledge at Air Base Defense School in Northern California. In 1953, Routledge was already eating protein pills “by the handful,” and getting all the stares from women as they walked the beaches, Simmons said.
“Ray was our guy for disagreements,” Simmons, now 73 and living in Yucca Valley, said with a laugh.
“The other (unit’s) guys picked this giant, he had to be 240-pounds. But Ray lifted him right up and threw him against the barracks, and boom, everything was over!”
In the 1960s, Routledge appeared on the cover of no less than eight muscle magazines. By the early 1970s he owned the San Bernardino Health Club at 10th and D streets.
That’s where Tim Goddard met him. Routledge took the teen under his wing for several regional youth competitions. They kept in touch through the years of Routledge’s marriage, move to Running Springs, divorce, sale of the gym, corrections job and decision to travel the country.
“He really loved it,” Goddard said.
“It’s kind of a sad ending, him coming back here and being in the place he was at.”
When Routledge returned, he had no more money, Goddard said, and no longer talked to his sons. But he’d still visit the 48-year-old Goddard, and sit for dinner — with dessert of a quarter of an apple pie and almost a half-gallon of ice cream.
Routledge gave Goddard all his prized bodybuilding trophies, medals and film reels. In 2003, the Old Fire burned Goddard’s home and took the irreplaceable items with it.
“He was very, very saddened but his words were, ‘You know, they’re only possessions,’” Goddard said, his words halted by tears.
“He said, ‘Your health is the main thing.’”
Reach Paul LaRocco at 909-806-3064 or plarocco@PE.com