This past Valentine’s Day, Ruth Ann and Gordon Hodgson celebrated the love that has bound them through 67 years of marriage and counting with an hour of cardio at the United Health and Wellness Gym inside Longmont United Hospital. And why not? What better way to spend an afternoon, after all, than with sharing activity that feels good, does good, and is encouraged by doctors and loved ones? Besides, this year Valentine’s Day fell on Wednesday.
For the past twenty years, Gordon Hodgson has been showing up to exercise at LUH every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—since he was 74, in fact. Several years ago Ruth Ann began joining her husband, and today the couple enjoys iconic status at the gym. Ruth Ann’s warm smile envelopes everyone in her radius with a kiss of pure kindness. Gordon’s sturdy shoulders and humble bearing give hints to his character–his committed work ethic, patience and modesty. Their presence bestows a lift to their surroundings.
Colorado natives and longtime Longmont residents, Ruth Ann and Gordon met in their twenties at a roller skating rink south of town. A year later the couple, who have two children and four grandchildren, were married. “He was a nice man, a good man,” Ruth Ann says, tenderly patting her husband on the shoulder. “Still is.”
Neither Ruth Ann nor Gordon considered themselves “exercisers” until later in life. They did, however, lead active lives, from childhood on. Ruth Ann grew up on a farm with nine brothers and sisters. “It was a good place to be active,” she reminisces. Later she worked in soil conservation, which involved skiing and snowshoeing in the mountains to take snow surveys. Her work was training enough to propel her up Long’s Peak with girlfriends as a young woman.
Gordon also led an active lifestyle, through hard work. Before meeting Ruth Ann, he was in the navy, trained in welding and metalwork. In 1956 he started his own welding shop, Hodgson Welding, which did business in Longmont for a solid 35 years. Ruth Ann assisted with the bookkeeping. “Back then, you either farmed or did coal mining,” Gordon says. “I made farm machinery. That kind of work, welding and working with machinery, is hard.” Upon retiring, Gordon was offered and accepted a position to make lab equipment for the astrophysics department at CU Boulder, which he did for seven years. “That was a good job,” he says with fondness.
Outside of work, Gordon and Ruth Ann enjoyed active pursuits together, albeit casually. They skied, played golf, did gardening in their backyard. So it came as something as a shock when in 1998, Gordon’s doctor became concerned during a routine checkup. Gordon felt fine, but further examination ultimately resulted in Gordon undergoing bypass surgery. The ensuing recovery was tough, but he emerged from it determined: it was time, he decided, to start getting serious about exercise.
Ruth Ann may have felt called to take on Long’s Peak, but she attributes adopting regular physical activity to Gordon’s dedication and tenacity. “I could think of lots of excuses,” she says. “It’s too windy, I’m too tired, it’s too cold. But he keeps us going, and we’re always glad of it.”
For two decades now, Gordon’s consistency is an inspiration to the community he and Ruth Ann have cultivated at LUH. They are in turn inspired, looking forward to the friendliness and camaraderie that comes along with what they describe as doing the right thing for their bodies. “There are many people who actually admire us for exercising,” Ruth Ann acknowledges, her eyes sparkling. “We’re following doctor’s advice more than anything else,” Gordon adds pragmatically. “We’ve been told to exercise, to we do. They tell us every year to keep on doing it. Our kids encourage us to do it. And we enjoy it.”
Ruth Ann and Gordon clearly do enjoy their time working out at the gym. At ages 90 and 94 respectively, simply showing up is nothing short of success. What are their secrets? Luckily for us, they’ve offered a few tips:
Just do it. No excuses. They don’t say it that way, but the example they set sure does. “No one has ever told us we shouldn’t but a lot of people have told us we should,” says Gordon. “It’s the right thing to do, to be healthy and happy.”
Find a community. “[The LUH United Health and Wellness Gym inside LUH] is a social place,” Ruth Ann says. “That’s part of what makes it nice–the people. We enjoy them, and they’re good to us. It’s kind of nice to belong to something so you’re more encouraged to go.” It’s nice to have a workout buddy for that same reason, she adds, gently nudging her husband. “We look forward to exercising because it’s not only good for you, you enjoy the people. Sometimes you don’t even know their names but you know the face, and it’s nice to see,” she says.
Gratitude. They aren’t prone to boasting–ask Gordon how he’s doing and chances are you’ll receive his trademark response, “good enough”. But don’t let their modesty deceive you. They make a point of being ever conscious and thankful for what they have. Gordon shares that he has outlived both his parents combined. His father died of pnuemonia in 1947, his mother of a blood clot in 1954. “Back then there was nothing they could do,” Gordon says. “We’re living in a good time. We tell each other quite a lot how fortunate we are, that we can do the things we do.”
Thank you, Ruth Ann and Gordon, for sharing and encouraging! You are inspirational!