Postscripts: Workout buddies from the Y sidelined by the virus, but they aren’t sweating it | Guest Columns

Because the Westerly YMCA reawakens, I wished to examine in with a few of the fellas who have been a part of the common early- to mid-afternoon crew within the males’s locker room, most of them swimmers and some, like me, denizens of the sauna.

It was paramount, earlier than penning this, to know that Joe Calamita, out within the woodsy take away of Previous Mill Street in Charlestown, was doing properly. At 89, he’s the senior member amongst us, and, as I wrote in a profile of him for The Solar final July, the one with probably the most humble disposition and most joyous snort.He invariably brightened our day.

“I’ve been taking walks, studying books in regards to the Bible, taking naps, fetching mail, watching a bit of TV,” he advised me final week once I reached him by cellphone.Joe labored within the greenhouse and as a groundskeeper on the College of Rhode Island, and had a lawn-mowing enterprise in Charlestown.

Due to his age, and understandably cautious nature lately, he mentioned he wouldn’t return to the Y, the place he walked in one of many swimming swimming pools, for a while but.

Joe would arrive on the Y round 2 within the afternoon every day throughout the week, and a short while later his buddies, Ted Parberry and Gary Fox, each of whom stay in Pawcatuck, and Burt Strom, from Wakefield, would seem for his or her laps within the pool.

Ted, in his late 70s, returned to the reopened Y every week in the past Friday, signing up prematurely for an hour within the pool, and a bathe, after filling out disclosure varieties about well being and absolving the Y from legal responsibility.

The group showers and the sauna are nonetheless closed, however the person bathe stalls can be found.

As soon as a professor of arithmetic at Wells Faculty in upstate New York, he moved right here as chief science marketing consultant with the Navy for Evaluation and Know-how in North Stonington. He’s been strolling virtually each day together with his good friend from the Y, Gary Fox, for the reason that pandemic shuttered the Y and most every part else in March.

They stroll in Wilcox Park and alongside Elm Avenue in Westerly, Barn Island in Stonington and downtown Mystic and Noank village, amongst different locations.

“I’ve been practising the piano,” he advised me. “Studying items I’ve uncared for.”

As for piano, Gary Fox, a few years youthful than Parberry, is a performer and composer, adept at numerous moods and kinds, however a seductive practitioner of what could be referred to as “Cocktail Music,” that picture of a darkish, dim room with a lone pianist, little tables and a good-looking bar with a mirror behind it, and when the music begins, the lights go down and repair ceases.

His day job, all his profession, was as a licensed scientific social employee with a grasp’s of social work, however, as he says, he’s been a keyboard man all his life with a love of music handed on to his household.

Sporting a wholesome grey pony tail, he’s readily noticed within the locker room, however he’s not the one one of many associates to tug his hair again. Burt Strom, the transplanted New Yorker, sports activities a extra modest tail.

Modest sums up Burt, as properly, however his associates fortunately betray him with tales of his abilities as {an electrical} engineer, furnishings designer, boat builder, all of the whereas dedicated to tying flies and fly fishing. Recently he’s been constructing a roll-top desk.

Burt did permit that early on he labored as a employees scientist on the Columbia College Electronics Analysis Lab. He holds a grasp’s in electrical engineering from the College of Pennsylvania.

He’s been strolling close to his house in Wakefield, however, like Joe, will wait till he deems it secure for him to return to the Y. He, Ted and Gary have a Zoom session as soon as every week.

For Burt’s 78th birthday, Gary composed a full of life ditty which he sings in his finest Yiddish accent with the chorus: “Oy, vey! Oy, vey! Oy, vey! What a day! What a day! What a day!”

One in all my sauna mates, the Rev. Bruce Shipman of Groton, a semi-retired Episcopal priest and graduate of Carleton Faculty, plans to return in early July to Oaxaca, Mexico, the place for the previous few years he has been interim chief of an Anglo church, although his travels, already postponed as soon as, stay virus-tentative.

Bruce and I took to the warmth and argued faith for years on the Mystic Y — the place the sauna had been a welcome respite since 1983, when the then-Mystic Group Heart opened — till the sauna was sacrificed throughout the latest renovation, and so we transferred our routine to Westerly.

“I discovered early on how a lot I missed going to the Y, doing a number of laps within the pool and sweating of their sauna, the place there was (virtually) all the time good dialog …,” he wrote in an electronic mail. “For train I take walks within the neighborhood, however that’s no substitute for the Y.”

He mentioned he’s been working to enhance his Spanish, and all the time a devoted reader, has been specializing in Henry Adams and different 19th-century People together with Henry James, Edith Wharton, John La Farge, John Hay, Bernard Berenson and James Russell Lowell.

Having wrangled with Bruce in heated dialog, I’ll vouch for his studying. He has a formidable thoughts, and, as I wish to tease, an operatically resonant voice.

So right here all of us are, nonetheless, to inform the tales of those darkish and sheltered months, although I think it will likely be a spell earlier than we inform them face-to-face within the Y locker room.

Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and was a longtime reporter and columnist. He could also be reached at

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