LA GRANDE — A talented archer with deep La Grande roots, who used a technique many people in this region tried to emulate decades ago, recently died.
Gerald Rimbey died Dec. 3 in Reedsport after an extended illness. He was 90. Rimbey lived in Union County most of his life before moving to Reedsport.
“He was an icon (in local archery circles),” said Norm Paullus, a member of the Grande Ronde Bowmen, a La Grande-based archery club Rimbey belonged to for decades.
Rimbey won enough trophy hardware at archery tournaments to fill a small room and was at his peak in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
One of Rimbey’s most successful years in archery was 1959 when he won all three divisions of the Northwest archery championships, a feat rarely accomplished in the event at the time, Paullus said.
In that same year, Rimbey traveled to Elko, Nevada, where he won the inaugural Silver Buckle Tournament, a prestigious competition open only to the top archers in the United States west of the Rocky Mountains.
Paullus said Rimbey, using a recurve bow, could fire four arrows at a target 80 yards away and hit each within 4 inches of the bull’s-eye. And Rimbey could do this consistently.
One reason for Rimbey’s success is he had good technique and excellent physical control. Paullus explained Rimbey could repeat the same motion multiple times without varying it. Many archers watched Rimbey closely at shoots so they could copy him.
“People wanted to replicate his style,” Paullus said. “They were always quizzing him about it.”
Rimbey was highly respected in archery circles not only for his talent but his integrity.
Paullus said he would never report an inaccurate score to judges or do anything to violate the honor code archers abide by at tournaments.
Rimbey also was a good storyteller.
“He had a dry sense of humor. It was hard to tell sometimes if the story he was telling really happened,” Paullus recalled.
Many of his stories were about hunting experiences.
Rimbey did all of his hunting with a bow. He often was successful as a hunter because he had an excellent ability to gauge how far away a game animal was, Paullus said. This also helped him win at tournaments in which yardage was not marked.
Rimbey worked at several jobs during his career, including with the La Grande Fire Department and Martin’s Archery in Walla Walla, Washington, for which he had made more than 2,000 bows over a two-year period.
A service will be held for Rimbey at a later date in the La Grande area. His cremains will be placed in Island City Cemetery.