July 5, 2011

USA: Nonagenarian skates away from pitfalls of old age

NORTH ANDOVER, Massachusetts / Eagle Tribune / July 5, 2011

Older roller skaters, friends of Lewis and Flynn, threw a birthday party for Lewis at Skateland By Paul Tennant

HAVERHILL — His posture is ramrod straight and his balance impeccable as he and his partner dance smoothly, gracefully across the hardwood floor at Skateland.

Ted Lewis and his roller skating partner, Priscilla Flynn recently qualified for the national competition of United States of America Roller Sports.

Lewis also qualified for another distinction. If there is such an organization as the Nonagenarian Roller Skaters of America, he's now eligible to join. He turned 90 June 22.

A group of older roller skaters, friends of Lewis and Flynn, threw a birthday party for Lewis at Skateland on Friday.

"I'm happy to be here, I'm happy to be alive," Lewis said after they sang "Happy Birthday." Lewis, a Chelmsford resident who retired from Western Electric after 46 years, took up roller skating when he was 68. He read a newspaper article about a free group lesson being offered at the Tyngsborough rink, along with refreshments.

Ted Lewis and his roller skating partner, Priscilla Flynn (1997 file photo courtesy: wickedlocal.com)

"I thought that was a great deal," he said, and he's been skating ever since. Flynn, 76, of Newburyport, who worked with Lewis at Western Electric, caught his passion for roller skating and the two of them have been dancing across the rinks as a team for the last 22 years.

Flynn fell on the hardwood and suffered a broken wrist shortly after she took up the sport, but she came right back.

"She's not a quitter," Lewis said. The two continue to roller skate six hours a week and that includes a lesson from Bob Wilson, formerly of Lawrence and now of Hudson, a veteran roller skater and teacher of the sport.

Lewis, a World War II veteran like most of the men of his generation, said the sport forces participants to keep good posture and balance.

Whether he's in the rink, chatting with someone or flying one of his antique model airplanes — another of his passions — Lewis stands tall and erect.

"I never considered myself an athlete," Lewis said, although he did play sports in high school. He started working for Western Electric in 1940 as a bench hand and as the company geared up to make communications equipment for the armed forces, there wasn't much time for sports and other pleasures, he explained.

Lewis served two years in the U.S. Navy as a sonar and radar technician on a mine sweeper. After the war, he returned to Western Electric and worked his way up to shop supervisor.

Lewis' other passion is antique model airplanes, which he has been building and flying since he was a teenager. They range from 12 inches to 7 feet long — and he does not fly them by radio control or with a wire.

Lewis has made planes that are powered by diesel fuel, gasoline, electricity and rubber bands. They'll fly anywhere from 8 to 30 seconds, he said, and the builder has to figure out how to make the plane follow a flight plan.

Several people at Lewis' party made comments such as, "I'd be happy to live until 90, let alone be roller skating."

The national roller skating competitions will commence later this month. Lewis and Flynn will be demonstrating their moves the morning of Aug. 2 at the Allen City Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind. They're competing in the Veterans Division and will be judged on posture and "presence," Lewis said.

Regardless of the outcome, they've already won the admiration of fellow roller skaters and friends.

Ted's Tips on long life
* "Moderation in everything, no extremes."
* "Maintain a sense of humor, and practice anger control."
* Chances are, you will not live a long and healthy life "if you allow yourself to become angry and upset."
* "Never stop exercising," Lewis said. He practices as well as preaches that bit of advice. At the very least, get out and walk, because "walking is most important," he said.
* Good genes definitely help. "My father was playing golf until he was 93."

Paul Tennant

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