Sunday, August 24, 2008

Picking up the Pace with a Pace Maker

(Photo- Left, Ken Gifford.  Right, Ed Johnstone.)
At the July 2008 Washington State Senior Games held at Lakewood Community Center in Lakewood, Washington, one of the competitors in the 85-89 year old Men's Singles event was Ed Johnstone.  He was not sure if he would be able to participate in the tournament because in the week prior to the event, he had a doctor's appointment.  Apparently, he received clearance to play, and play he did.  Ed sprinted around the pickleball court with an equally nimble opponent.  In two games straight, Johnstone claimed victory over 85 year old Ken Gifford. Johnstone turned 87 this month.  After receiving his gold medal, I walked out into the lobby with him and in a quiet corner, he lifted his shirt so I could see the outline of a pace-maker implanted beneath his skin.  "I had my first pace-maker in 1994 and the second one on 9/11/01."  He continued to tell me, "If anyone tells you they have a pace-maker and don't know if they should play pickleball anymore, well I just want you to know that pickleball is what keeps me alive."   Ed has been playing pickleball for 8 years.  He has an extensive tennis background which includes a stint in the Navy during WWII.  When the Navy discovered that he was a tennis player, they sent him back to Alameda, CA to play in the 12th Naval District tennis tournament. There he won the Singles event, beating the favored Captain, and was promptly sent back overseas.  After serving in the Navy, Johnstone was a banker until his retirement at age 65.  To help make the transition from working to being retired, he decided to take up running marathons.   In the two years following his retirement, he ran 9 marathons in New York, Hawaii, Los Angeles and San Diego.  He and his wife Roe have 3 wonderful children and he gives much of the credit to Roe for how well they turned out and for providing a nurturing home life for them during the times he was away.  Ed's advice for staying in good shape is "never give up."       

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