Growing up in the fitness industry, you have role models and mentors that influence your life. My grandmother was one of those people. She influenced me long before I started working in a health club and my career in this industry. You need to understand a few things about her. First, she was a college athlete playing field hockey for Ithaca College, a rare thing for women in the 1930s. Later she married my grandfather, Don, and had two daughters, my mom and aunt. Unfortunately, she lost her husband when she was in her 30s and was left to raise their two daughters, 5 and 7 years old at the time, on a teacher’s salary. More specifically, she was a gym teacher. She never remarried because Don was the love of her life.
As a kid, I remember spending summers at her house. She created games and activities for my cousins and me to participate in, including the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. She would often bump into her former students when they were older and remembered their names, making them feel special. Ironically, many of the kids she taught became high school classmates of mine! They would all tell me how much they loved her as their teacher.
When I was 16, my mom and I moved in with my grandmother, and it caused us to become very close. Before I left for school in the morning, we’d have coffee and talk. I remember her asking the most intriguing questions, saying she was born too early, and wondering what the future would be like. She was truly ahead of her time! She retired as a gym teacher at the age of 69 and lived a full life until she passed at the age of 90.
Today, I have her picture in my living room with her coach’s whistle, softball, and glove. I remember her strength to survive after losing the love of her life, raising two amazing women, and influencing kids through fitness and sport. I miss her. I miss talking to her, even though sometimes I still do. She would have loved the “future.”