Who goes sky-diving on their 80th birthday?
Who rows the distance between Paris and New York in just over two years at 80?
Doris Walsh does and you know why?
Because after her loving husband of 59 years passed away, four years ago, Doris decided she could either:
- Stay home and grieve
- Do something Gutsy.
So Doris decided to start exercising and developed a passion for rowing.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Doris in her cozy home over a cup of freshly brewed coffee. When Doris greeted me, I thought I had the wrong address and glanced at the unit number, just to make sure. This woman seemed too young and bouncy to be eighty. I kept comparing her to relatives and friends of mine in their eighties, and thought she must be hiding some secret that all of us need to hear about. (Her secret below.)
“Where would you like to sit?” she asked, pointing to three different locations in her clutter-free living area. I picked her dining room table and Doris placed a small dish of wafers, to go along with our coffee. I noticed her fuchsia polished nails matched her lipstick.
Her tidy home and toned body made me realize: this woman takes care of herself and is disciplined.
Doris Walsh was born on February 1st, 1931, in Rosemead, California. She married at 17, and had seven children in ten years. All of her adult children are between 52-62. She now has 24 grandkids and 17 great grand children.
After some background questions about how many siblings she had, “six” and whether she had a happy childhood, “yes” I wanted to prove something that I truly believed. In order to become “gutsy” in life, you must have traveled as a child, and Doris proved me wrong. She said she was rather shy as a child and never moved around more than a 45-mile radius, her whole life. She does believe that being raised to be “independent” as a child and not “coddled,” is very important though.
Doris believes she has done three major Gutsy things in her life:
- She went back to school and became an RN (registered nurse) at the age of 56 when she no longer had kids at home.
- She went skydiving at 80.
- She started rowing and set goals for herself. Her first goal was 2 million meters, which she reached, 3,107 miles and her next goal is to reach 3 million meters. So far she’s rowed 1,864 miles this year.
Doris says that rowing relaxes and takes away any stress. She listens to music and gets motivated when she hears her husband singing, “Some Enchanted Evening” their favorite song when he was alive.
She has become a rowing champion and was interviewed in the Orange County Register.
“I put on my music and just row away. Since I made my goal, I have cut back and now train 3-4 times a week for an hour. I walk here and back home as well. That’s about a mile.”
Doris has a secret: it’s called discipline and setting goals. She says, anytime she says she’s going to accomplish something, she sticks with it.
It’s obvious that Doris and her husband were deeply in love during the entire 59 years they were married. Her daughter showed up during our interview and said, “My parents were joined at the hip. They were the perfect example of soul-mates.”
Doris told me that Faith, is what gets her through everything in life. She knows that she will join her husband one day.
When I asked her what other Gutsy things she would like to do, she mentioned “Sky jumping.” She said it’s different from bungee jumping, which she refuses to do as it can detach your retina. Doris said there’s sky-jumping in New Zealand where you can jump from a tall building. I looked it up and think this might be what she wants to do next.
Plus, Doris wants to keep sky-diving on every single birthday. The problem is her daughters don’t want to.
Perhaps I should volunteer on Doris’ 81st birthday on February 1st 2012, as I’ve never tried.
The secret is: Setting goals, discipline and sticking with it, as well as exercising as you get older. This is how you can make your life exciting and Gutsy at any age. Doris Walsh is proof. I forgot to mention Doris also walks everywhere, even to the grocery store, and does yoga which explains her flexible, youthful stride.
What do you think? Have you met any older Gutsy people? If so, please share what you admire about them?
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