There are few people in Beverley who won’t know or have not have heard of Ivan Usher. His passing was a great sadness to many, none more so than to his wife, Hilary and son Greg. It seems very fitting that someone who inspired so many in the sporting world or touched so many lives should have a lasting legacy. But what could that legacy be?
Ivan went to Beverley Grammar School where he was captain of the football and cricket teams, back in the day when you played football in the winter and cricket in the summer; he was also East Riding County captains. He was on the books of both Hull City and Nottingham Forest at junior level and played for Bridlington Town as a semi-professional - he didn’t give up playing football until he was 65! He also played squash, cricket and tennis.
Although Ivan loved playing sports, he enjoyed teaching sport and fitness even more. He became a PE teacher at Longcroft School, running all the football teams and taking pupils away on skiing trips. He met Hilary who was to become his wife in Gerlos, Austria, where she was a ski instructor and, co-incidentally, a PE teacher, when he took kids from Longcroft on school trips. They discovered that they both had a dream of starting a gym... Ivan eventually persuaded Hilary to move to Beverley from her London base, he took early retirement from school teaching at the age of 55 and Usher’s Gym, then located in Saturday Market behind Lloyds Bank was born.
In 1988, the Gym moved to premises in Mill Lane. By this time, Ivan and Hilary were falling in love and they married in 1990. Their son, Greg, was born in 1991. The gym thrived for the next 14 years. Many will tell stories of Ivan’s legendary ‘legs, tums and bums’ aerobic classes or running around the Westwood to get fit. There were classes for everyone from a few months old in the Kangaroo Club to 85+ years. Hilary trained as a Line Dance instructor and it soon became all the rage! There were gymnastics sessions, including artistic gymnastics, aerobics, karate, boxercise, weight training and circuits as well as the gym to work out in. There were charity events to raise money for cancer research and sponsorship of local teams and individuals. Some famous people trained at the gym including Paul Robinson, ex-England goalkeeper and paralympic gymnast Susie Pipes MBE. Paul Robinson was also Greg’s baby-sitter!
With such an inspirational father and friends, Greg was becoming a footballer himself! He played for Leeds United and Sheffield United as a junior, Beverley Town and now Harborough Town, enjoying trips to Slovenia, Singapore and America. Dad Ivan never missed a match! He loved to be able to sit in the stand and watch his son play - something it was impossible to do at Beverley Town as there was no stand. Ivan frequently commented how good it would be to build a stand at Beverley Town’s ground. Usher’s Gym closed in 2004 when Ivan needed a knee replacement and the friend who helped out suddenly passed away at the age of 48. Although the intention was for Ivan to retire, the gym was replaced by mobile classes in and around Beverley - for someone who has been active all of their life, just stopping enjoying his passion was not an option! Unfortunately, Ivan died unexpectedly of undiagnosed encephalitis while Greg was still at university. Since then, Hilary and Greg have realised there is so much positive regard for Ivan in the town that his wish of building a stand at Beverley Town could come true. Greg has done some costings and found that a 50-seater stand will cost about £17,000.
Although (at the time of writing) planning permission has not been granted by East Riding Council, many people have already got behind the idea of erecting a stand at the Norwood ground. For example, the Beverley 10k will feature 40 runners all wearing Usher’s Kangaroo Club t-shirts collecting sponsorship money for the Ivan Usher Memorial Fund - the race is being sponsored by Ivan’s best friend, Dave Artley of B&A Scaffolding who once, very briefly, held the 100m sprint record! There will be a tombola, raffle and other activities at Beverley Leisure and a social afterwards at Armstrong Social Club. Hilary and Greg hope to raise £3000 on the day, May 13th.
A memorial service held for Ivan raised £2000 and Hilary is organising a sponsored Line Dance. They are hoping to approach other sources of income for grants, such as local charities, the local Councils and Sport England. If, for some reason, the stand idea does not come off, Ivan’s legacy does already live on in practical, personal ways. Hilary helps over 100 people a week keep fit with her classes at Armstrong’s, the Memorial Hall and David Lloyd Gym; Jack-in-theBox started through Ushers and Base Fitness’ Claire Moran was a gym coach at Ushers. But how wonderful it would be to see the ‘Ivan Usher Stand’ at Beverley Town unveiled for all to appreciate and remember this truly amazing man!
If you would like to contribute to the stand, please contact Hilary on firstname.lastname@example.org or the Just Giving page is now open for donations at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/greg-usher