Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine
Johnny's parents enrolled him in figure skating lessons at the St. Paul Figure Skating Club and by the age of eleven, he entered the world of competitive skating - coached by no less a great than World Champion Megan Taylor and mentored by USFSA judge Mary Louise Wright.
Photos courtesy "Skating" magazine
By the time young Johnny was fifteen, he won the bronze medal in the novice men's event at the U.S. Championships behind Dick Button and Jean-Pierre Brunet. In the two years that followed, he won the U.S. novice and junior men's titles as well as the U.S. junior and Midwestern senior pairs titles with partner Harriet Sutton of Minneapolis. The pride of Monroe High School, not only was he a skater going places but an honour roll student and senior vice-president of his class. Nicknamed 'Pee-Wee' by his peers for his compact stature, he also excelled at gymnastics, horseback riding, cross-country running and track and field.
As he predicted, Johnny was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1950, after skating a stint as a featured skater with the Ice Capades. He joined the cast of John H. Harris' Ice Cycles spin-off tour in January of 1953 and later returned to Ice Capades, performing alongside Ája Zanová, Donna Atwood and Bobby Specht and Silvia and Michel Grandjean. He skated a solo act as well as a precision duet with childhood friend Don Pearson. The November 8, 1950 issue of the "Buffalo Courier-Express" described him as "poetry in motion" and the March 13, 1949 issue of the "Chicago Tribune" raved, "Mr. Lettengarver moves like a dancer and skates like a dream. He has instinctive elegance and style to spare, a rare sense of timing in space, and his turns in the air have a silky, balletic brilliance. There are plenty of other experts, but he is unmistakably a star."
Top: Don Bearson and Johnny Lettengarver in the Ice Capades. Bottom: Johnny Lettengarver in the Ice Capades.
While touring with the Ice Capades, Johnny met his wife Virginia, a fellow skater. After retiring from the show in the late fifties, the couple settled in the state of Washington and raised two sons and a daughter. A love of water both frozen and not, Johnny became a keen boating enthusiast and a respected skating coach at Highland Ice Arena in Shoreline, Ballard Arena in Seattle and Jimmy Grogan's school in Squaw Valley. In his spare time, he enjoyed skiing and sports cars. He sadly passed away of cancer on January 14, 1997 at the age of sixty seven.
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