Age is nothing but a number for some athletes in SJ. Meet some dedicated seniors who prove it’s never too late to get out there and try something new. Despite some occasional aches and pains, these aging athletes show no signs of slowing down. They’re living proof: you’re only as old as you feel.

GoldyChampion Goldy, 98

Champ Goldy says he can’t walk so well anymore. But he sure can run.

The 98-year-old Haddonfield resident has competed in track meets on several continents, travels the country scooping up gold medals in multiple events and is the proud holder of a world record.

“I have fun doing this stuff,” Goldy says. “I do the 100- and 200-meters, shot put, discus, javelin, and weight throw.”

Goldy began running at 70, when he retired as a full-time Methodist minister.

“I saw a brochure for the New Jersey Senior Games, and I thought that looked interesting, so I went up and came home with some medals.”

At first, Goldy ran just the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, but he soon picked up the field events.

“The 100-meter is in the morning, and the 200-meter is in the afternoon,” he says. “There’s all this time to waste in-between. So I started fooling around with the shot put and the javelin. It’s a nice way to spend the time between races.”

Goldy practices in a small park near his home, and neighbors are accustomed to seeing him rolling around the neighborhood on a motorized scooter.

“I can’t walk too far, so I adjust to the situation,” Goldy says. “I take my discus and javelin and get on my scooter. I throw them, get on the scooter, ride up to where they landed, pick them up and throw them again. I was at a meet where the shot put was 300 yards or so from the track. My son pushed me on a little cart from the shot put up to the starting line, and I got up and ran the 100-meter in 26 seconds. I can run much better than I can walk, really.”

This past July, Goldy cemented his track-and-field legacy at Wake Forest University, where he was a member of the first relay team made up entirely of men in their 90s. They completed the 4×100-meter, 4×400-meter and 4×800-meter events.

Goldy’s got one more record in mind, and he’ll have to keep up his training regimen for two more years to see it through.

“I’m going to run the 100-meter when I’m 100 years old at the Penn Relays,” he says. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to walk then, but I’ll still be able to run. I just keep on going all the time.”


 

tomTom Armour, 69

Heart problems run in Tom Armour’s family, but he’s confident his active lifestyle will keep him strong for decades to come.

“I’m the youngest of six kids, and four of them have had open-heart surgery,” the Berlin resident notes. “I said, ‘That ain’t happening to me!’ I have that in the back of my mind. I had a stent put in my heart in 2001, but it didn’t slow me down.”

The 69-year-old is the head coach of both the boys’ and girls’ volleyball programs at Eastern High School in Voorhees, but during his weekly racquetball games, he’s never on the sidelines.

“I play racquetball for at least two hours three times a week,” he says. “I go to volleyball practice and spend three hours working with the kids, and sometimes I get a little frustrated. So I go to racquetball the next morning and get that stress out.”

Armour’s early-morning games do more than just keep him in shape. He says beginning the day with two hours of physical activity also keeps him in a good mood.

“It’s good to be out there working; it makes your day better,” he says. “The camaraderie with the guys I play with is unbelievable. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or a sanitation worker, you’re out there playing hard and having fun.”

Armour retired from teaching a few years ago, but he has no plans to scale back on coaching or his own fitness pursuits.

“I have a lot of friends who say they’re afraid to retire because they won’t do anything, and I say, ‘Well, why not?’ You just get up and do it,” Armour says. “I used to surf, but I’ve had my knees replaced and now I’m more comfortable in a kayak than on a surfboard. So OK, I can’t surf, but I can still ride the waves – the bigger, the better. I like being alive, you know?”


 

Rosemary Yates, 71

A decade ago, while chatting with a friend after spin class, Rosemary Yates received an unorthodox invitation.

“Some of the ladies who do spinning wanted to do some charitable work, and the way they decided to do it was with a dragon boat team,” says Yates, 71. “My friend asked me if I’d join. At first, I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it or be good at it, but now I’ve been doing it for 10 years.”

rosemaryA dragon boat is a traditional Chinese watercraft made of wood and decorated with the ornate face and tail of a dragon. A team includes 20 paddlers, a drummer and a sweep, who steers the boat through the water.

Yates is a member of the River Sirens, an all-female team based out of the Camden County Boathouse. For six months of the year, the Audubon resident meets the rest of her team for three practices a week on the Cooper River.

“I taught for 43 years, and whenever another teacher would ask about my evening plans I’d say, ‘Oh, tonight I’m on the river,’” Yates says. “It really is a commitment, to get there and work hard after you’ve worked all day, but the Cooper River is beautiful when the sun sets.”

Yates says paddling is hard work, but she finds it amply rewarding.

“You’re working so hard, and you can’t really let your mind wander,” she says. “You have to be very conscious of where your hands are, the pace of the stroke – it takes a lot of energy. Even when it’s raining, you’re out there working.”

Though she is one of the older women on the River Sirens, Yates, who has traveled to China and South Africa with members of her team, says she has no intention of giving up her hobby anytime soon.

“If you like doing it, you’re going to do it,” she says. “You make it work. A high interest level is really what you need. I’ve got my heart and soul in this. Everybody gets aches and pains, but I want that seat on the boat, whatever it takes.”


 

Joe Hummel, 85

When most people get bored, they flip on the television or pick up a book. Joe Hummel, 85, goes for a walk.

“It started when I retired. I was sitting around reading the [Philadelphia] Inquirer, and I was just bored,” he says. “I came across an ad for the Outdoor Club of South Jersey, inviting people out on a hike, and that’s how it started for me.”

joeNow, the Mount Laurel resident walks 1,000 miles each year. He hikes a few times a week and averages between 10 to 12 miles of walking in a day. He frequently leads group hikes with the Outdoor Club.

“It keeps you busy. You meet people, and it gets you out of the house,” Hummel says. “We’re lucky in South Jersey, because there are so many great places to hike. We’ve got the Pines, which make up 22 percent of the state. I like to lead hikes out around Batsto Village, down in Wharton State Forest.”

Though he enjoys walking for hours at a time, Hummel says he’s a hiker – not a camper.

“I was in Korea in 1951, walking all day, sleeping in a tent,” he says. “I got home and went to college under the GI Bill, and I wanted to work in an office, inside. Well, I did that for 45 years, and now here I am back out in the open.”

When he’s not leading a group of hikers, Hummel uses his quiet walks to take in literature.

“I listen to audiobooks, and they help pass the time,” he says. “Most of the time it’s a novel. The local library’s got a great selection of them. You just pop the earplugs in and it’s great – very relaxing.”

Hummel encourages people of all ages to get out of the house, even if it’s just for a half-mile stroll around the block. “It doesn’t matter how far you can go or how fast,” he says. “But you’ve got to do it 12 months a year. You have to be consistent. Winter is the best time to hike, as far as I’m concerned. There are no mosquitos, no ticks; just you and a path and the quiet.”


donald

Donald R. Fletcher, 96

Most mornings, Don Fletcher wakes up and heads for the pool.

“I swim to keep active and keep in shape. I swim four days a week,” says Fletcher, who lives in Voorhees. “On days when I don’t get to the pool, I use my rowing machine. I’ve always loved boats, and I’ve always loved the water. Swimming and rowing are my preferred methods of exercise because of that love.”

Fletcher didn’t plan to enter a swimming competition, but his family had other ideas.

“My son and daughter-in-law talked me into entering a masters’ meet,” he says.

“At first I said no, because I don’t think I’m a technically skilled swimmer, but ultimately

I felt tremendous satisfaction when it was over, and I had two first-place finishes.”

Fletcher spent his professional life serving the Presbyterian Mission, working in remote locales in Latin America before moving with his family back to SJ. After he retired, he had a serious health scare.

“In 1999, I had radical surgery for bladder cancer,” he says. “It was a 12-hour surgery, and I spent six weeks in the hospital. I made a pact with the Lord that I’d like to have another 15 years to write. Well, it’s been 15 years, and now I’m on my sixth book. Sometimes ideas come to me when I swim, or I use that time to think about something I’m working on.”

At 96, Fletcher feels great, and enjoys traveling, reading and spending time surrounded by friends and family.

“When I go to the doctor they say, ‘Write down what medications you’re taking.’ Well, I’m not taking any,” he says. “I’ve just been blessed with great health. I think that’s a result of my lifestyle and, more importantly, my attitude toward life. I’ve always had a very accepting, positive outlook and attitude. However many or few your years may be, it’s about living them well.”

February 2015
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