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At the gym

Prime Time: Age (95) and blindness can’t slow workout fiend

Thursday, November 7, 2013
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At the gym


Angie LaBelle, 95, of Saratoga Springs visits the Saratoga Regional Therapy Center twice a week. Susan Gribben helps her with a sitdown step exercise machine.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Angie LaBelle, 95, of Saratoga Springs visits the Saratoga Regional Therapy Center twice a week. Susan Gribben helps her with a sitdown step exercise machine.

— Every Monday and Wednesday morning, Angie LaBelle downs a smoothie made from kale, pineapple, ice water and hot sauce, and then heads out to the gym.

It’s admirable for anyone to be so disciplined, but in LaBelle’s case it’s downright inspiring, since she’s 95 and legally blind.

“My mother never stops,” said her daughter, Mary Beth Printsky, who lives in Wilton. “When the weather was bad and icy and nobody else would go to the gym, she would insist on going.”

Born in 1918, LaBelle played basketball at Saratoga High School, where she earned a sportsmanship award. After graduating, she worked as a court clerk for 16 years and raised three children — Mary Beth, Francis and Theresa — with her husband, Francis “Jock” LaBelle.

She never got her driver’s license, so walking was a way of life. She roller skated, too, even while pregnant, Printsky said.

LaBelle has spent a good deal of time volunteering, and was still assisting residents of Wesley Health Care Center in Saratoga Springs while in her 80s.

In 1999, quadruple bypass surgery slowed her a bit. She wasn’t interested in exercising after that, but, urged on by Printsky, she spent time at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady and went for further rehabilitation at Saratoga Regional Therapy Center.

“She loved it so much, she stayed on. She has been a gym member since 1999,” Printsky said.

A few years after her operation, LaBelle had a cardiological checkup and her doctor told her arteries looked as good as they had right after surgery.

Macular degeneration has stolen LaBelle’s eyesight, so she now contains her hour-long gym workouts to the recumbent bicycle.

In July 2011, she fell and was in the hospital for almost two weeks, but two weeks after that, she was back at the gym.

Her perseverance is an inspiration to many.

“She encourages everybody. She inspires people just by her presence and by her example,” said Printsky, who counts herself among the inspired.

“I’ve always walked my dog every day a couple miles,” she explained. “On those days when I don’t feel like going, I think about her, so no excuses. Each day I try to do better because I have her as an example.”

LaBelle’s son, Francis, added: “When she goes to the gym, you know it’s good for her, and it’s good for the other people there, too. Everybody stops by to see her. They just like to be near her. She’s got just a big heart and a big way about her. It’s always there, but it’s not like a big brass band. You just know if you see her, she’ll make things right.”

When asked why she keeps exercising, LaBelle answered simply, “I like life.”

She said she enjoys her workouts and also likes to visit with other gym patrons.

“Sometimes they have refreshments,” she noted. “I like cake and pies, cookies. I like all that good stuff.”

There was plenty of dessert to go around at LaBelle’s 95th birthday party in January, which was attended by 125 friends and family members. Drawing such a large crowd probably wasn’t difficult, since, according to Printsky, everyone adores LaBelle.

“She just has such a great spirit. She just exudes light and joy. She loves everything, especially dessert,” she said with a laugh.

Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040 or kdelarocha@dailygazette.net and follow her on Twitter at @KellydelaRocha.

 
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