Reedies in retirement are heading for the hills—literally. They’re running up and down them to get in shape to volley, weight lift, swim, bike, and run ahead of the competition.
When physicist Bill Reese ’58 retired from his position heading up the Navy’s technical analysis efforts—“we were trying to figure out what the other side had in mind for new weapons,” he explains—he started looking for something else to do. He dabbled in foreign languages and played the stock market. But, says his wife, Emmy Clark Reese ‘58, he was unhappy.
“He was used to directing hundreds of people and millions of dollars,” she says, “and now he just had me and the cat. He has tremendous energy and discipline, and he needs somewhere to direct it.” Then Bill saw his first triathlon, in the couple’s hometown of Pacific Grove, California. He told Emmy he thought he would try it. “At your age, you’ll either end up in a ditch or dead,” she responded.
But he hasn’t. In the past 10 years, Bill has competed in 70 triathlons, most of them Olympic distance. That means a 1,500-meter swim followed by a 40-kilometer bike ride followed by a 10-kilometer run. Bill, who turned 70 in February, says he was hooked after his first event. “I discovered two things. One, I made mistakes, which bothered me. And two, I wasn’t that bad at it, which was encouraging for someone not naturally athletically gifted.” Since then, he has competed in national and international events, finishing 14th in his age group in the 2004 International Triathlon Union World Championship, held on the Portuguese island of Madeira. He finished 18th in 2005, and 20th in 2006.
He qualified for the 2007 World Championship (to be run in Hamburg, Germany, on September 2) by placing eighth in his age group at a recent national competition at Hagg Lake, near Hillsboro, Oregon. His time: 3:04:46.
Reese says he’s been blessed with good genes for the sport. “I seem to be disintegrating a little slower than many of my contemporaries,” he says. “My objective is to compete for another 10 years.”
Harry Bernat AMP ’44 is the elder statesman among the Reedie athletes we tracked down. At age 83, he serves as team captain for an Arlington County Tennis Association team near his home in Maryland, and he has received medals in a variety of sports. This year, his gold and silver medals qualified him to compete in the National Senior Olympics in Louisville, Kentucky, in June and July.
When Gloria Grimson Lyon Mighell ’59 was in her forties, her son, John Lyon ’77, gave her a seven-dollar pair of tennis shoes. It was definitely a hint. “He was playing rugby at Reed at the time and he was pretty disgusted with me,” she says. So she started working out regularly at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, and has been doing so ever since. Over the years she has swum competitively, ridden horses, entered decathlons, and lifted weights. “Nothing is more feminine than being in shape,” she says.
Mighell initially turned to weightlifting to improve her strength for swimming and riding. She soon realized that “I could lift more weights than any woman my age at the club.” She became a member of the World Association of Bench Pressers and Dead Lifters and, at her husband’s urging, began to enter international competitions.
“I distinguish myself because I don’t have any tattoos,” she says. “I’m rather strange.” She now holds five world records in her age and weight classes—two in dead lifting and three in bench pressing. She won her most recent dead lifting record in 2001 when she lifted 104 pounds.
In 2005 she took the world record for single-lift bench press for women in her weight class, aged 75 to 79. She has twice broken her own world record. At this point, she says, she’ll wait a couple of years before entering again, until she’s advanced into the next age category. “Then I won’t break that nice girl’s world record,” she says.
Mighell still works out, swimming and weightlifting for an hour and fifteen minutes nearly every day. During her career she worked as a teacher and social worker, and she’s done some cultural heavy lifting as well, serving on the boards of the Portland Opera and the Oregon Council for the Humanities. She was general chairwoman of the Reed College Women’s Committee in 1981 (the lecture series that year was “Islam: The Heritage Behind the Headlines”), and she has served as vice-president of the Reed Alumni Board. She is now on the Foster-Scholz Club steering committee.
And is she competitive? “I always try to win,” she says firmly. And does she have many competitors? “No, and that’s why I win,” she adds with a laugh.