Eighty-Six & Still Young
As featured in the Nspire Magazine Summer/Fall 2014 Coeur d’Alene Edition
By: Toby Reynolds/Photo above by: Benjamin Powell
Bob and Jean Eilmas celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary and their 86th birthdays this year. One might expect them to be in an assisted living facility, or wheelchairs, or walking with a cane at least. Perhaps, they have family nearby to tend to their needs. But this is not the case. In fact, not only are Bob and Jean independent and capable, they’re amazingly vibrant for their years. On one occasion while visiting the Eilma’s, our photo shoot was interrupted when a couple young fellows from a lawn care service came to the door offering to thatch, fertilize and mow their lawn. “No. No thank you,” Jean says. “Bob already does that.” And she’s not kidding. Not only does he thatch, fertilize, and mow their lawn, but he weed-eats and edges too. Not to mention all the work they do in their garden, flower beds, and keeping their home spotless.
In the early 1940’s, while Jean is busy riding her bicycle all over Kentucky, Bob is riding his bicycle up and down the California coast, from Oakland to Sacramento, with the Boy Scouts of America. Eating right and being active is important to both their parents, so they grow up healthy. In 1944, Jean takes a trip to California with her mother, who then writes home to her father, “Honey, sell the house. I’m not coming home. I’ve found paradise.” This same year, Bob asks a Metal Shop classmate how he’s gotten such a muscular, V-shaped back.
“I workout at Jack LaLanne’s,” he says. “You should check it out.”
Bob pays ten dollars a month at Jack LaLanne’s until his money runs out, after which he tells Jack he’ll have to quit. Jack, The Godfather of Fitness, promptly takes Bob aside and tells him, “You’re not quitting. You’re too dedicated.” Instead, Jack has Bob clean the gym for membership. Over the next four years, Jack becomes a lifelong friend, and bodybuilding becomes Bob’s passion—he never misses a workout, not even on Christmas and New Years day. In one year, Bob grows from a skinny, 6 feet tall, 135 pound teenager to a muscular 185 pound bodybuilder. Before his 20th birthday, Bob weighs in at 218 pounds with 18 inch arms and a 51 inch chest.
Reminiscing a moment, Bob asks, “Do you remember Reg Park?” referring to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding icon. Bob explains that before he got famous, “Reg came and worked out with us for a while. We were working out with some of the greats, like Steve Reeves and Jimmy Payne. He couldn’t believe some of the stuff these guys were doing. Reg took everything he learned back to England with him.”
“Steve Reeves,” Jean sighs. “What a man. He was body beautiful.”
By 1950, Bob has returned from military service and is working at a grocery store. Jean and her mother work right next door. One day Jean’s mother walks in from the grocery store and asks her, “Have you seen those two bodybuilder boys next door?” Jean says she hasn’t, and her mother replies, “You should.”
Bob is so distracted by Jean when she comes through his register, that he over charges her, but doesn’t tell her. Seven weeks after they start dating—and while Jean’s mother is out of town—Bob and Jean get married. “We figured we’d better do it quick,” Jean says. “We knew my mother would try to stop us. She even came home a week early.”
Years later, once all their children are in school, Jean starts going to the gym consistently. “Any gym he ever went to, I went to,” she says. “As soon as we could go together.” And that is still true today.
Although, with age, the motivations to go to the gym may change—Bob’s not bodybuilding anymore, not looking for a 1 rep max, and Jean’s content with maintaining her health—the results are still the same.
“Jack LaLanne used to say,” Bob explains. “’I hate working out. But I love the results.’ I’d say the same. I like the results.”
Jean says, “I used to work in a garden like a man; digging up trees, moving trees. I never had to watch my weight. I just controlled my food. As you get older, though, if you don’t work out, you lose.”
During the photo shoot, Benjamin Powell asks if they’re a romantic couple. They squeeze one another and laugh, a healthy sparkle in their countenance. “Yes we are,” Jean says. “We sit on our love seat and hold hands every night while we watch TV.”
“Love is forever,” Bob says, and Jean agrees. “And that’s another reason to go to the gym. It keeps you young. You really are only as old as you feel.”
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to live a long and healthy lifestyle. You don’t even have to like working out, but with a well planned exercise program, you’re guaranteed to like the results. If it’s motivation you’re lacking, just go have a chat with Bob and Jean Eilmas. You can bet they’ll ask if you’re working out. And, if you’re not, and you’re younger than they are, you’re going to feel guilty. And guilt can be a powerful motivator.