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Pete Rademacher holds the gold medal he won at the 1956 Olympics.

CLEVELAND — Tieton native Pete Rademacher, who won a boxing gold medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and fought Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title in his first professional bout, has died. He was 91.

A family member told the Medina Gazette in that Rademacher died Thursday at the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky. He had dementia for years. His brain will be donated for medical research, the family said.

Although Thomas Peter “Pete” Rademacher spent most of his life in Medina, some 30 miles south of Cleveland, he always liked coming back to the Yakima Valley.

“This is such a wonderful town and wonderful Valley,” he said during a 2006 visit to Yakima when he was the speaker at a Rotary Club luncheon to promote fundraising activities for the Parker Youth and Sports Foundation. “I always love to come back here.”

Rademacher won gold in Australia by knocking out Russian Lev Mukhim in the heavyweight title match. A football lineman at Washington State, Rademacher then set out to win the heavyweight belt as a pro and persuaded Patterson to fight him in an Aug. 22, 1957, bout.

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Rademacher knocked down Patterson in the second round at Seattle’s Sicks Stadium, but was eventually counted out in the sixth round after being dropped seven times. Rademacher is the only boxer to fight for the heavyweight title in his pro debut.

The WSU Athletic Hall of Famer was intensely proud of his Olympic title and carried his gold medal to events, where he shared it with crowds.

During his 2006 talk, Rademacher tossed the medal to a person in the crowd so his listeners could get a better look. While closing, he said, “Anyone got my medal? I’m playing golf tomorrow, and I’ll need to use it for a ball marker.”

Rademacher and his wife, Margaret, were married 57 years before her death in 2007. The couple had three daughters, Susan, Helen and Margo.

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