Newark fitness instructor honored for her decades of dedication
Sep 28, 2018 04:32PM
● By Steven Hoffman
Carole Walsh has been helping to keep Newark residents fit for more than four decades.
Walsh explained how she first got started teaching fitness classes for the Newark Parks and Recreation Department in 1971—more than 47 years ago.
“Janet Chance was instructing fitness classes for both the YWCA and the fledgling Parks and Recreation Department when I joined one of her classes in 1969,” Walsh explained. “I loved it! This was not my middle school physical education class, but a fun and challenging exercise program to my favorite music. Later, when Janet needed to cut back on her schedule, she asked me if I would be interested in teaching one of her evening classes. I think it was Jim Hall who accepted her recommendation, and I began in 1971 trying to replicate Janet's program. The following summer, and for several years thereafter, I attended the Bonnie Prudden Institute for Physical Fitness to improve my teaching skills, learn safe techniques and choreography that could be adapted to many levels.”
That was the start of Walsh's commitment to fitness and dedication to her classes that still continues today.
Earlier in 2018, Walsh's efforts during the last four decades were recognized as she was selected as one of this year's recipients of the City of Newark's Jefferson Awards.
According to Paula Martinson Ennis, the deputy director of the Newark Parks and Recreation Department, Walsh is now the longest-standing employee for the department, and her fitness classes have a regular following of participants—some of whom have been taking Walsh's classes for decades.
Speaking on behalf of the Newark Parks and Recreation Department, Ennis wrote in an email, “Carole Walsh has been an integral part of the Newark Parks and Recreation Department for over 45 years. She began instructing a fitness class in 1971, and continues to teach this class today. Carole’s lifelong commitment to fitness and dedication to her classes has provided countless people in the community the opportunity to build and maintain their fitness level. Her classes have a regular following of participants, some of whom have been a part of her class for decades. We are truly honored to have Carole as one of our fitness instructors. She is more than deserving of all recognition for her years of dedication and service to the Newark community.”
The Newark Parks and Recreation Department also shared a comment from one of Walsh’s students, who said, “Carole is an amazing woman who consistently challenges me to keep fit. The warmth of her personality and the great care she takes to make a fun creative workout are outstanding. I love her class and make it a priority in my weekly schedule.”
Walsh, who has been a resident of the city since 1966, still teaches two classes a week during the school year. She always tries to make the classes fun and different for the participants, and through the years she has helped many people identify an exercise program that works for them.
Walsh explained, “There was a time when I taught up to seven classes per week, but not all of them were for the city. In the mid-1980s, one of my class members offered her backyard pool in order for us to continue exercising during the summer; so we got together one day a week for "aquacise." Many years later, when the pool was no longer available, our group began hiking in White Clay Creek State Park on a weekly basis during the summer. This little hiking group is now under the leadership of long-time class member Lucy Marianiello, who leads a hike every day and has expanded her contact list to almost 100 individuals. I am proud to have begun this hiking group and prouder still of Lucy, whose efforts have encouraged so many people to participate in a regular fitness routine.”
Fitness is a very important part of Walsh's life, and she tries to emphasize the importance of being physically active to anyone who takes one of her classes.
“I am very fortunate to have had the luxury of being able to enjoy physical activity that is both fun and healthful,” she explained. “Aging is inevitable, but keeping active as long as possible is the best way to stay healthy and energetic. I am grateful to my parents for giving me good genes, and to my husband for supporting my enthusiasm for teaching the classes.”
She said that the most meaningful part of her work during the fitness classes has been the close relationships that she has formed with the participants.
“I have met so many wonderful and talented people and made lasting friendships with many of them,” she explained. “We have shared many of life's joys and a few heart-breaking tragedies. We have followed each others' children as they have grown up, and now it is the grandchildren that we keep up with.”
One of her favorite memories of all her time with the Newark Parks and Recreation Department came just last year when the class gave her a surprise birthday party. Walsh explained that there was a birthday cake with her photo, along with the Wonder Woman logo, balloons and a basket of cards and notes. There were lots of current and former Stay Fit class members and a large group of people from the Parks and Recreation Department.
“It was amazing that so many people were able to keep the secret!” Walsh said. “The notes and cards meant a lot to me, and I have kept them along with quite a few notes of appreciation that have been sent to me over the years.”
Another one of her favorite memories is the many years that she spent cooking bacon for the attendees of the annual Thanksgiving breakfast that the city sponsors. The breakfast was held for years at the George Wilson Center.
Walsh explained that, “Vernae Waverly was wonderfully efficient in organizing the event, getting donations, and making sure she had enough volunteers to make everything run smoothly.”
Walsh said that she was always happy to volunteer for the community event.
When Walsh received the Jefferson Award, it was also noted that she is a member of the League of Women Voters of New Castle County, and she has served as the moderator for candidates’ forums prior to City Council elections for many years. It's another way that she has helped serve the Newark community.
While Walsh appreciated the Jefferson Award, she was also very humble about it.
“It is certainly an honor,” she explained, “but as I told Mayor Sierer, there are many others who are more deserving of the recognition than I am. Nevertheless, I was delighted. The ceremony was memorable, and being in the company of a number of individuals who have contributed so much to the community was extraordinary. I was pleased that my adult children were able to attend. I teased them by noting all of the times throughout their lives when I was sitting in an audience being proud of them, now it was their turn to applaud for me.”
When she looks back at the 47 years and counting that she has served as a fitness instructor, Walsh said that the old adage that if you find something you love doing, then you will never work a day in your life has been true in her case.
“Of course,” she explained, “this is not a full-time job, but finding the appropriate music, and the steps and moves that fit is sometimes challenging, but it is never 'work.'”