By Jessica Jacobs, USAG Schweinfurt Public AffairsAugust 7, 2013
SCHWEINFURT, Germany (Aug. 7, 2013) -- When the gym at Kessler Field officially closed its doors July 31 in preparation for the garrison's closure next year, it particularly impacted the two men who have been there the longest.
The Kessler Fitness Center closure comes as part of a greater plan to consolidate facilities in support of the drawdown and eventual closure of the garrison here. While it frustrates the many who once used the gym on a regular basis -- from lifting weights and spinning to using its basketball and racquetball courts -- the gym's closure marks the end of an era for only a choice few.
Local national employees and former military members that have stayed in Schweinfurt make up a number of the community's workforce employees. Some have even pledged their loyalty here for decades.
Ralf Kraus, a Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation employee, and Tyrone King, a regular at the Kessler Fitness Center, both for the last 28 years, shared memories and stories July 31, the gym's last day of operation.
Kraus, a local national employee, started working for FMWR in 1981 at the Ledward Gymnasium, which is now the Ledward Activity Center. He began working at the Kessler Fitness Center when it opened in December 1985.
"Closure is sad. After 28 years now, this morning I had my last opening," said Kraus. "It's going to hurt not coming in everyday."
Kraus was presented a ceremonial key to Kessler Fitness Center. No other employee had worked at the gym longer than him.
"As a child, we ran behind American convoys, we saw that every day," said Kraus. "It was a dream to work for the American or be with the American. In September 1981 I got this job, and that dream came true. I couldn't believe it."
King's story is similar. Though he hasn't worked at the gym the longest, he has worked out there the longest of any fitness guru. A former Soldier stationed here in 1981 and assigned to 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, King was a regular at the Ledward Gymnasium and has since been a regular at Kessler Fitness Center.
"This gym is my home away from home," said King. "This is where I come to wind down and get my frustration out."
Kraus and King sat down together to discuss fond memories and old stories. This was a friendship nearly three decades in the making that began after years of seeing the same familiar face day after day.
"When I first met Ralf, he was smaller than he is now and much shyer," said King, laughing with Kraus. "Our friendship was built out of years of trust, and trust became friendship, and ever since then we've been friends."
"Looking back, things seem like they happened yesterday," said Kraus. "I can't believe it's been 28 years. I'm going to miss this."
"But these are memories, memories that will never be erased," said King.
Though the Kessler Fitness Center closed to the community, the Finney Fitness Center at Conn Barracks will remain open through closure.
Meanwhile, as both men will change their routines, they will continue their daily interaction at Finney Fitness Center at Conn until closure 2014.
"We're going to keep in touch on Facebook," said King. "We will continue our friendship."