Twin sons of JoJo Starbuck find own spin on sports

Twin sons of JoJo Starbuck find own spin on sports

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Twin sons of JoJo Starbuck find own spin on sports

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MADISON

The Gertler twins, Abe and Noah, are two of Madison High School’s busiest athletes.

Abe Gertler has competed in soccer and track, participating in some sprint races as well as taking up the pole vault last year.

Noah Gertler plays football as a running back and linebacker on the Dodgers undefeated state championship team, plays lacrosse as a defender and also throws the shot put during the indoor track season.

“I’ve always been involved in acrobatic things in life, so that’s why I tried the pole vault,” Abe Gertler said. “I saw the pole vault in the Olympics and I thought that looked awesome, so I decided to give it a try.”

“I like football because of the team aspect,” Noah Gertler said. “I really don’t have much time to waste. I like to keep busy, because I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”

The Gertler twins are fraternal, not identical — and that goes for their personalities, likes and dislikes as well. Noah is a Jets fan. Abe likes the Giants.

“I try my best to stay away from him,” Abe laughs.

“It’s nice to share one sport with him,” Noah said. “But it’s nice sometimes that he does his own thing. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, so being away has its benefits.”

One might think that the Gertlers would have taken to hockey, considering the two were almost literally born on the ice.

In fact, when the Gertlers were still three weeks old, they were skated around the rink at Rockefeller Center in New York, carried by famed figure skaters Peggy Fleming and Brian Boitano.

“I can’t remember who had which one of them,” said the Gertlers’ mom. “But they’ve always been around the rink.”

That’s because the Gertlers have a very famous mother and former Olympic figure skater. Their mom is JoJo Starbuck.

Yes, the same JoJo Starbuck, who with childhood friend Ken Shelley, electrified audiences with their California adolescence and carefree style as the top American figure skating pair in both the 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympics, where they just missed a bronze medal by one-hundredth of a point.

JoJo Starbuck is still involved in figure skating these days as a coach and choreographer, but she also keeps busy as just being a doting mother to her twins.

“Once the boys were born, my life changed,” JoJo Starbuck said. “I’m so proud of them and I can’t believe all they do.”

Starbuck was born in Alabama – she was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame with Joe Namath – but was raised in California since she was a little girl.

“The interesting part of history is that most of the figure skating back then happened in the East and I was in California,” said Starbuck – and that is her birth name.

As a 7-year-old in Paramount, Calif., Starbuck was taken for her first figure skating lesson at a rink run by Frank Zamboni – yes, the inventor of the machine that scrapes ice surfaces clean in rinks all across the world.

There, she was paired with her classmate and friend Shelley.

“The whole thing was a fluke,” Starbuck said. “We both had a coach, John Nicks, who was a pairs champion in Great Britain. It was a wonderful bunch of coincidences. We were both lucky to have parents who were willing to put in the time and deal with the sacrifices of going to practice for two and a half hours before school and three hours after.”

Starbuck attended Downey High School and was the cheerleading mascot at the school when she watched the 1964 Winter Olympics and saw Fleming skate.

“I think anyone hardly knew anything about the Winter Olympics back then,” Starbuck said. “But I saw Peggy Fleming on television and knew that went all over the world and knew I wanted to do that. The 1968 Olympics were coming up and Ken and I made that our goal.”

Four years later, Starbuck and Shelley made the United States Olympic Team and headed to Grenoble, France.

“I was 16 years old and had never been overseas before,” Starbuck said. “When we made the team, it was a moment I’ll never forget. I cried so much. It was magical to be a part of that.”

Although Starbuck and Shelley finished 13th in the pairs at the 1968 Winter Olympics, they instantly became household names and national stars.

“There were so many wonderful blessings that happened to us along the way,” Starbuck said. “We were so privileged.”

So much so that Starbuck and Shelley represented the United States in the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, where they finished fourth and became even bigger stars.

“We were in fourth by one one-hundreth of a point,” Starbuck said. “But there are no complaints. It led to a wonderful professional career.”

For four years, Starbuck and Shelley performed with the Ice Capades traveling tour.

“We traveled the world together,” Starbuck said. “It was a wonderful time. We did television shows and I choreographed and produced shows for others.”

However, there comes a time to step away and Starbuck did exactly that.

“It was time,” said Starbuck, who still keeps in touch with Shelley, a resident of New York and a skating judge.

Starbuck met her future husband, Jeff, an architect, at a Fourth of July party in New York City at the former apartment of composer George Gershwin in 1992.

“A mutual friend invited me to come watch the tall ships in the New York Harbor,” Starbuck said. “We then started dating and a year later, we were on our honeymoon.”

And in 1995, the twins were born.

“Having the boys was the greatest thing to ever happen to me,” Starbuck said. “I just try to be the best wife and mom I can be. Being a mom by far is the most important thing.”

The Gertler family has resided in Madison for almost two decades.

Abe Gertler said that he’s always just understood he had a famous mother.

“No one has ever asked me, ‘Do you know who your Mom is?’ ” Abe laughed. “We’ve always known. It wasn’t a point where we learned about it.”

“After a while, you just sort of get used to it,” Noah Gertler said.

Now juniors at Madison, the brothers are involved in other activities as well. They both are avid Boy Scouts and play the piano.

But the skating thing just didn’t catch on.

“We always skated,” Abe Gertler said. “I don’t remember never having skates. She tried to teach us what she did, but I don’t think we were really interested.”

“She never pressured us to skate,” Noah Gertler said. “We both tried to play hockey, but it didn’t work.”

So while the boys do their own thing – Abe concentrating on getting better at the pole vault, taking private lessons in Stanhope, while Noah prepares for the upcoming lacrosse season – JoJo continues to coach and teach skaters.

She teaches about 12 to 15 adults once a week at the Twin Oaks Rink in Morristown and does a lot of private teaching and coaching. She also spends two days a week teaching adults at Rockefeller Center, so all totaled Starbuck works with students from the age of five through 70.

“l love all my students, but I really love working with the adults,” Starbuck said. “Once the boys were born, this is what I do.”

And by the look of things and seeing the development of her twin boys, JoJo Starbuck, or JoJo Gertler, is doing quite well.

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