Dave Draper, an iconic figure in the world of bodybuilding during the 1960s, passed away on November 30 at his residence in Aptos, California, situated near Santa Cruz. He was 79 years old at the time of his passing.
The cause of his death was congestive heart failure, as confirmed by his wife, Laree Draper. Dave Draper’s journey through life was marked by remarkable achievements, a journey that began with personal challenges and led to a legacy of inspiration in the field of bodybuilding.
After battling addiction and achieving sobriety, Dave Draper took on a new role as a special programmer at a gym located in Santa Cruz. This transformative period in his life also brought love and partnership when he married Laree Setterlund in 1988. Together, they embarked on a shared vision by opening two World Gyms during the 1990s. These gyms became a testament to their dedication and a platform for promoting fitness and health. Dave and Laree Draper owned and managed these establishments well into the 2000s.
Dave Draper’s impact extended beyond his professional endeavors. His legacy includes not only his contributions to the fitness world but also the loving connections he shared with his family. He is survived by his sisters, Dana Harrison and Carla Scott, and his brothers, Don and Jerry. Additionally, he leaves behind two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. Tragically, his daughter, Jamie Johnson, passed away in 2016, marking a poignant moment in his life. His marriage to Penny Koenemund had previously ended in divorce.
Dave Draper’s journey is a testament to personal transformation and resilience. His legacy serves as an enduring source of inspiration for fitness enthusiasts and those striving to overcome challenges in their own lives. His dedication to promoting a healthier and more active lifestyle continues to impact the fitness industry and the lives of many individuals who aspire to achieve their physical and personal best.
Dave Draper’s journey into the world of bodybuilding commenced in Secaucus, New Jersey, where he was born. His passion for weight training started to take shape at the tender age of ten and was firmly rooted in his lifestyle by the time he reached 12, an era that fell within the mid-1950s. Draper’s early interest in physical fitness eventually blossomed into a lifelong commitment to bodybuilding, a path that would lead him to numerous accomplishments in the world of fitness and strength.
During his high school years, Draper showcased his versatility by participating in various sports, including wrestling, gymnastics, and swimming. Yet, the true spark of inspiration for him was ignited during his weight training sessions. These sessions, driven by his relentless dedication, set the stage for a promising future in the world of bodybuilding.
At the age of 21, Dave Draper achieved a significant milestone by winning the coveted title of Mr. New Jersey. This triumph marked the beginning of his ascent in the competitive bodybuilding arena, setting the stage for a career filled with achievements and recognitions. Just six months after this notable victory, he made a life-changing move to Santa Monica, California. It was in the heart of this vibrant bodybuilding community that Draper continued his journey to greatness.
During his early years in California, Draper immersed himself in the world of bodybuilding by working for the Weider Barbell Company, a renowned name in the fitness industry. His employment with this company provided him with valuable experience and insights into the field of bodybuilding. Simultaneously, he ventured into the realm of motion pictures, demonstrating his versatility and talent.
In the early days of bodybuilding, Draper’s commitment and passion were often met with skepticism. Society at the time didn’t offer much encouragement or inspiration to those pursuing bodybuilding. Many regarded it as a peculiar and perhaps ego-driven endeavor, and they often attached stigmatizing labels to those who chose this path.
In California, Dave Draper commenced his weight training journey at a gym affectionately dubbed “The Dungeon.” He described it as an expansive yet somewhat gloomy space, located at the corner of 4th and Broadway. This gritty environment served as the training grounds for numerous dedicated bodybuilders, laying the foundation for their remarkable careers.
Later, Draper transitioned to the original Gold’s Gym, a legendary establishment where he had the privilege of training alongside some of the world’s most prominent bodybuilders. Among his training partners were iconic figures such as Frank Zane, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Mike Katz, and Robby Robinson. The camaraderie and shared dedication among these athletes played a pivotal role in their individual and collective successes.
Dave Draper has been candid about his past use of anabolic steroids. He noted, “I was ten years into my training, 235 pounds, and already Mr. America before steroids came on the scene. I used them sparingly under a doctor’s supervision and noticed marked improvement in my muscularity and separation.” This transparent approach reflects Draper’s commitment to maintaining honesty and transparency in an often complex and sometimes controversial aspect of the sport.
Standing at a height of 6’0″ (1.83 meters), Dave Draper’s competition weight hovered around 235 pounds (106.6 kilograms). His remarkable journey through the world of bodybuilding serves as a testament to the power of dedication, passion, and hard work in achieving personal and professional success in the world of fitness and strength.