Robert Negaard 1923-2012; Helped Build JU Rowing Team Came to Sport Later in Life, but Was a National Champion, and Inventor

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland

In 1956, Robert Negaard appeared on the television show, "To Tell the Truth," in which a panel tried to guess which of three men was a professional rower. It wasn't the 6-foot-7 Negaard, who had never rowed a stroke.

It would be 17 years before he picked up an oar at age 50. But, ironically, the man who once played an imposter on TV became known worldwide for his contributions to the sport. He even invented a wing-rigger that makes boats more structurally stable. He helped found the Jacksonville Rowing Club, which started on the Jacksonville University campus, and the school's rowing center is named after the Negaard family.

He maintained his passion for rowing until he died Nov. 26 at his home in Fleet Landing. He was 89 and had been in declining health.

Mr. Negaard got involved because his son and daughter embraced the sport, said Jim Mitchell, director of rowing at JU.

"The program here started well before the Negaards got involved, but it wouldn't be like it is without the Negaard family," said Mitchell, adding that they gave their energy, time, passion, financial support and equipment to the program.

Mr. Negaard's son Brad, daughter Kristen Negaard O'Brien, daughter-in-law Annette and grandsons, Stefan and Erich, rowed at JU. Brad and Annette Negaard designed and built the rowing center a few years ago through his company, GBN Construction.

"Bob's passion for rowing and for JU was immeasurable," Mitchell said. "He meant the world to this program and forever will."

Mr. Negaard was born in Stillwater, Minn., and became an Eagle Scout. He served in World War II, earning three stars and helping rebuild Remagen Bridge as part of the Army Corps of Engineers. …