The city of Batesville was established in 1852 and has over 150 years of rich history full of heritage and tradition. From the first railroad lines that inspired the platting of the city to the thriving manufacturing industry that remains alive and well today and all that lies between. In accompaniment of that history were many diverse and accomplished community members.
Pete Karbowski was a Chicago native who would eventually become a community member of Batesville. His reason, he fell in love with not only the town of Batesville, but also a young lady from Batesville, Cecilia Becker. Karbowski didn’t know it then, but he would someday make his home and raise his family in Batesville.
Prior to relocating, Karbowski was just a young man growing up in Chicago who was active in wrestling. He belonged to a local wrestling club and competed in matches in other clubs throughout the Chicago area. As Karbowski grew up and was developing his athletic ability, he also spent time visiting his aunt, frequently, who lived in Batesville.
Karbowski’s hard work as a youth paid off, winning him a gold medal at the Hawthorne Men’s Club April 26, 1912 in the middleweight division. It is said by those who knew him that he was known for some of his wrestling holds and relied on them to overcome his opponents. The second gold medal earned by Karbowski came with even more prestige than the first. At 25, Karbowski would compete as welterweight in the 1912 Olympics. The Olympics were in Stockholm, Sweden in 1912; however that is not where Karbowski would compete. Instead, the following summer fate took a hand and they held the wrestling portion of the Olympics at Gate Park in Chicago July 4, 1913. Peter Karbowski would not only be selected to compete, but would beat the opponent from Sweden to take home the gold.
Two years later in 1915, Karbowski would move to Batesville. Then, on September 10, 1919 he would marry the Batesville native, Cecilia Becker. At the time Becker was employed as a typesetter at the Herald Tribune newspaper.
Once married, Karbowski served on behalf of his country in WWI in the Navy before returning back to Batesville and working at the Memorial Building as a janitor for several years. Karbowski worked at the memorial building until the “new post office” was built. Upon completion of the post office, Karbowski went to work as the janitor there until he retired.
Cecilia became a mother of five, two boys and three girls, and stayed home to tend to the children.
Peter and Cecilia’s youngest son, Don Karbowski, was born in 1933 and raised in Batesville along with his four siblings. As an adult he also chose to make Batesville his permanent home and, like his father, Don too fell in love with and married a girl from Batesville, Joanie Hermish.
Don and Joanie still reside in Batesville today, just down the street from Don’s childhood home where they raised three sons of their own.
Don couldn’t explain some of the oddities surrounding the gold medal, like why part of the 1912 Olympics was held in Chicago or how his father had the opportunity to compete, because surprisingly, his father didn’t speak on it much, but Don knew how special the achievement was.
“He was very proud of that,” Don said.
And although some things may remain a slight mystery, the Olympic Gold Medal Don grew up with tells the story all its own. (Ed. note: Our research indicates welter weight wrestling was not contested in 1912...further adding to the mystery.)