Member Spotlight: Gerard Hennessey

Pat Jones- “It’s a beautiful day in the Ozarks!” Gerard Hennessey (who will be 90 years old this October) announces as he walks through the front door of the Pat Jones YMCA this morning; I can hear him from my desk. It doesn’t matter if it cloudy, pouring rain, or sunny and clear. He grew up in the Ozarks; every day is beautiful to him, and he loves to share that. He jokes with me that he doesn’t even really have a Y membership; he simply engages the front desk staff in talking about the beautiful day, and they too distracted to check him in. You may have seen him in his Campaign Style Army hat, walking with his tall walking stick. Gerard’s relationship with the Y goes back pretty far.

He has been a member off and on over the years since the 50’s. After serving in the US Army overseas in the Pacific during World War II, he returned home to Springfield and went to work for Southwestern Bell for 37 years, at 301 E Jefferson. The downtown YMCA was just up the street, so he spent most of his lunch breaks there swimming and working out. At that time, there was a separate facility across the street for women, the YWCA. He married, raised a family, and finally retired in 1985.

Although working out at the gym was great, he preferred to be outdoors, and was an avid hunter and fisherman. He traveled the world with a group he has been a part of since 1977, called the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, whose mission it was to talk to youth about the Bible. His local group, which started out with 50 members, now has only 4, but they still meet every Saturday morning for breakfast at Ziggy’s Cafe.

Gerard says about 7 years ago, when he “got too old” for the outdoor activities like fishing and hunting that he loves so much, he made his way back to the YMCA, this time the Pat Jones Branch which is closer to his home. He comes 6 days a week to lift weights, do laps in the pool, use the hot tub, and congregate with other members to visit and drink coffee in the dining area. He is part of the Silver Sneaker Program.

I hear him leave with his signature, “See you later alligator,” and one of the girls at the front desk yells…”After a while crocodile.”

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