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This Group Is Strong on Staying in Shape : Samson Seventies Strongmen is looking for women with the strength qualifications to become members of the organization.

September 16, 1993|ROBYN LOEWENTHAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At age 73 Theodore Hasapes loves to cruise gyms and fitness centers. In fact, he's a real "pickup artist." But he's not shoppin' for babes in spandex. The health-conscious septuagenarian and founder of a strongmen's club wants to meet older women who can bench press their own weight.

"You must be 70 or over to join the club and in good health and strength," Hasapes said. "You must also be able to demonstrate some feat of strength over and above what the average 70-year-old man is capable of. We also accept women. But we haven't found one yet who can lift a 30-pound dumbbell."

The retired high school coach and physical education teacher organized Samson Seventies Strongmen 3 1/2 years ago to entertain and inspire peers at senior citizens facilities.

Recently four of the volunteers dazzled participants at the Fitzgerald Center in Thousand Oaks with an exhibition of strength and agility.

Ernest Kauffman came all the way from Palmdale to stand on his head for three minutes. Then the 78-year-old cancer survivor skipped rope and breezed through 20 two-arm pushups.

Hasapes lifted weights. And Bernd Stevens, 72, left his office in Encino to perform one-arm pushups--a la Jack Palance at the Oscar ceremonies. Next he demonstrated some basic stretching exercises for seniors.

"Most seniors don't go in for weightlifting. So we show them how to stay limber. And all club members give a talk on health, proper foods and a resume of their life," Hasapes said.

Stevens also encouraged the Fitzgerald Center crowd to maintain their quality of life through exercise. "If you can't run, walk," he said. "And if you can no longer walk, shuffle along. But keep moving." Stevens also showed a segment of a film about aging well that features him and five other people on the East and West Coasts.

"The film will be shown on cable television and at HMO's," Stevens told the crowd. "The crew followed me all day. I start out in the morning with a rigorous game of tennis--I play in tournaments too. I bicycle around the beach with my grandchildren. Then at night I teach English As A Second Language to Spanish-speaking adults. And of course I work in between. I've been a CPA for 46 years. And they show me working out with weights at a sports club."

And if the seniors still weren't impressed, the club's oldest member, 97-year-old Bill Reale, made believers out of them by tying a rope to a dumb bell and lifting it with his teeth.

Hasapes, who lives in Woodland Hills, credited his family for his healthy lifestyle. "My father was a circus strongman performer. And he inculcated the values of strength and exercise. And my two grown daughters inspired me to start the club," he said.

So he visited various gyms and fitness clubs throughout the state to recruit members. Currently 42 men participate and he's always on the lookout for female members.

In addition, Hasapes hopes to make it a nationwide organization. The only charge to eligible seniors who join the club is the purchase of a "Samson Strongmen" T-shirt worn during presentations.

"We have to stay in condition and stay alive to be good role models," Hasapes said. "I go around to all these gyms. And I find very few seniors working out. Except for one or two in aerobics classes, it's usually the bodybuilders and younger crowd.

"So our club tries to inspire the fathers and grandfathers of the young people you see in these places."

*

Jan Richman, vice president of T.U.G.S. (Together United Grandparents Support), a Ventura County-based support and advocacy group for grandparents having difficulty with visitation or other grandparental rights, called to report that State Senate Bill 306 has passed the Assembly and Senate and has gone to Gov. Pete Wilson for his signature.

"The bill would finally put into law the ability for grandparents to petition the courts for visitation of minor grandchildren in cases where the parents' marriage is not intact and the grandparents have been greatly involved in the grandchildren's lives," Richman said.

To express your view on SB 306, call the governor's office at (916) 445-2841. T.U.G.S meets the third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. Location varies. For details, call (805) 388-1929 or 487-7229.

* FYI

For more information about joining "Samson Seventies Strongmen" or to arrange an exhibition, call (818) 999-5439.

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