Memories of Hart House

Ilmar Wallner (1936-2009): Memories of Hart House


Ilmar and Nora Wallner

Ilmar & Nora Wallner

One of my early, happy memories of childhood (over 40 years ago) is of my dad taking my three sisters and me to Hart House on Sunday mornings. He would do his 5-mile workout running on the track around us as we had a blast jumping on the trampoline, charged with keeping track of his 57 laps.


My dad loved Hart House. He was an architect and appreciated the building’s august design. One has the feeling walking in of stepping back in time, into a place where very important and serious things happen. It seemed like a strange place to have a gym but that was part of its intrigue. Dad told us that we had to keep Hart House our secret because other people would want to join and then it would get too crowded. Earlier in his career dad considered taking an academic position and I think at Hart House he could live out a part of himself that perhaps still fantasized about being a member of a university faculty somewhere. Dad so enjoyed the concerts in the Great Hall and would coordinate work-outs around performances. His relationships with other serious runners (like Sherwin Desser and Doug Piercy) endured and he had tremendous fun with members of the Athletic Club over the years. They were birds of a feather who found each other in this amazing place, where body, mind, and soul could be satisfied all in the same building.


When dad was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May, 2008, he chose Hart House as the place where he wanted his memorial service to be. Hart House was his sanctuary and he made himself a part of it. I continue to support Hart House in the memory of Ilmar Wallner. I know he would like that.


Lisa Wallner Samstag, PhD
Institute of Child Study, DipC.S. ‘88

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