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Senior Lifestyles

Going strong at 96: Local resident celebrates with friends at gym

Photo By: Courtesy of Suzanne Campi Stevens
Photo Courtesy Of Suzanne Campi Stevens Mary Washburn, seated, celebrates her 96th birthday with friends and staff at Shawsu Workout Studio, where she exercises regularly.

Los Altos resident Mary Washburn knows a thing or two about longevity. Healthy, witty and wise at 96, she still visits Shawsu Workout Studio to stay in shape.

Friends and colleagues at Shawsu recently honored Mary, a longtime client of the Loyola Corners gym, with a birthday celebration that included cake and a standing ovation.

Mary was born in Gouverneur, N.Y., April 15, 1916. Her favorite pastimes as a child included playing baseball and visiting friends who lived on nearby farms. She joined the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II as a nurse and served stateside. Her military service enabled her to secure grants via the GI Bill and from the state of New York. She subsequently earned a bachelor’s degree in public health nursing from New York University, a Certificate in Physical Therapy from Simmons College in Boston and a master’s in rehabilitation nursing from Boston University.

“I was lucky – I got all that education for free!” she said.

Mary spent her entire career in the New York State Health Department as a public health nurse. The Shawsu staff believes Mary’s nursing background underlined for her the importance of physical fitness.

To avoid upstate New York’s harsh winters, in 1993 Mary began spending much of the year in Los Altos. In 1998 she responded to an ad publicizing senior fitness classes at Fitness Solutions gym, now Shawsu Workout Studio. Ever since, Mary has exercised three times a week at Shawsu, and recruited many of her friends to attend along with her.

During the recent party for Mary, she blew out 96 candles by herself – it took four people to light them!

We asked her to share her secrets not only to making it to 96, but to making it with body and mind intact. Someone asked if she drank wine.

“Nope,” she replied. “Beer was my favorite drink, and scotch. When I got to California, bourbon. But I don’t drink anymore.”

Mary’s favorite food?

“Nope, not chocolate – chocolate doesn’t like me. Meat and fowl are my favorite foods,” said the former farm kid.

Her Shawsu buddies asked Mary what she thinks of young people today – things have changed quite a bit since her childhood.

“The new generation is so knowledgeable,” she said. “So many things that I was taught in high school are now taught in fourth or fifth grade. I like young people today, though I don’t always understand them.”

I believe that Mary’s eternal optimism is what keeps her going with gusto. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday when she comes to the gym, I ask, “How are you, Mary?” She always responds with a big smile, “Can’t complain!”

Mary enjoys her exercise workouts, particularly training on the Pilates Reformer. She also keeps her brain in shape by doing crossword puzzles. And she’s always up for cake and a good party.

Shawsu staff and clients will greet the month of June with mixed emotions as Mary returns to New York to visit family for the summer. When she’s in New York, her little sister Jane, who turns 93 this year, and her nieces and nephews take good care of her.

Though Mary’s motto is “I’d rather wear out than rust out,” we know she’s doing neither.

Suzanne Campi Stevens and Shawn Murray-Saulsbury co-own Shawsu Workout Studio, 985 Fremont Ave., Los Altos. For more information, call 941-6700 or visit www.shawsuworkoutstudio.com.

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