Life and times of Key Biscayne florida

on the key

August 14th, 2014

A Matter of Balance: remembering our friend Pat Stroud


note from Vera: When I wrote this column, Pat Stroud, who led the Balance Class at the Key Biscayne Community Center, was an active, vibrant part of our Village. As many of you already know, Pat died last Sunday. Since she touched so many lives, I’ve asked some people who knew her to tell a little bit about her and about the impact she had on them, on her family and on the Key.
“Pat was a free spirit,” says Beverly Hirsch, “a terrific photographer, a volunteer at the Key Biscayne public school, and a wonderful grandmother who spent a great deal of time with her grandchildren.”
Andrea Robertson, president of the American Legion Auxiliary, recalls Pat as always being upbeat. “She participated in Bingo games and picnics [that the Auxiliary held for disabled veterans]. Her presence brightened every event she attended–she was a great addition to the Auxiliary.” And Auxiliary member Dottie O’Brien saw her as an eager worker who often volunteered to help with such things as distributing Memorial Day poppies and decorating cars for the Village’s 4th of July parade.
From Roxy Lohuis, coordinator of Adult and Senior Services at the Community Center: “Pat was just the right fit for the balance class; as soon as the snowbirds came back, they’d be in her class. People would forget their aches and pains, and the class became a social activity because of Pat. For some of these people, it might have been the only social interaction they had all day. They didn’t want to leave the room after her class; sometimes we’d be setting up for another event, and they’d still be there. Her booming laugh was contagious. She gave off an air of grace, and she commanded a room when she walked into it. She was amazing, and we’ll miss her so much.”
Suzanne Eismann remembers Pat as “a neighbor who was a 5 foot, 10 inch force of nature. She took me under her wing when I was at a very low point in my life. She drove me to the Balance Class at the Community Center and took me on various excursions. She involved me in the Christmas pageant and in the ASK Club Art Show. She was a great driver, and that was a help to me because my own driving was going downhill. She was tall, and I was short, which made us a bit of an odd couple–but not really. We both wore mismatched T-shirts and warmup pants, and she shared her joy in her 6-year-old granddaughter, whom she brought to my apartment so I could watch the child turn cartwheels.”
“Pat was the epitome of the ASK Club, embracing aging with joy and sharing her talents with us on Key Biscayne,” remembers Ed Stone. “She gave freely of her time, and she felt rewarded by the wonderful and fulfilling relationships she developed. We will miss her dearly. I hope she instilled her fabulous spirit in others who will continue her mission of caring.” )
“It’s the fall season,” declared my friend Beverly. “What do you mean?” I queried. “It’s spring, not fall.” “I mean it’s the time when everyone I know–myself included–seems to be falling,” she replied.
Beverly told me how she had fallen as she was leaving a night match at the Sony Open tennis tournament. To prove it, she showed me the vivid black and blue bruises on her thigh. Her friend, Mary, had fallen in her apartment and had to wait six hours until someone came to rescue her. And Beverly’s cousin in New York had fallen and broken her wrist. Surgery was required, but it had to be delayed because the cousin’s Coumadin dosage had to be reduced so she wouldn’t bleed copiously during surgery.
Since several of my own friends also had fallen recently, Beverly’s designation of the “fall season” struck a chord with me. I recalled how I’d worried about falling on the ice while I suffered through Chicago’s dreadful winter weather during last December and January. It’s no secret older broken bones take longer to heal than younger broken bones. And sadly, despite the phenomenal orthopedic advances in repairing and replacing bones, some old bones never heal at all.
During the past year, I had exercised very little because my days had been filled with caring for my sick husband in our condo apartment up north. Not until I arrived on the Key did I realize how much my confinement had affected my balance, my ability to walk up and down stairs, get out of a chair, etc. Fortunately, I discovered a wonderful daily exercise and fall prevention program on Channel 77 at 9:30 a.m. “A Matter of Balance” is narrated by Ed Stone with Dottie O’Brien demonstrating warm-up-exercises, strength and balance exercises and cool-down exercises. I’ve tried to do those exercises faithfully every day, and my diligence has been amply rewarded: I now walk up and down stairs with very little trouble, and I no longer live in fear of falling because I know I can keep my balance.
Underwritten by a grant from the Health Foundation of South Florida, “A Mattter of Balance” was launched five years ago at the Key Biscayne Community Center; there were five participants. It continues to this day, but there now are more than 20 participants in the three-times-a-week program (Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10:15 a.m.). Pat Stroud leads the class with the assistance of onetime Radio City Music Hall Rockette Marilyn Kreisber. In addition to the obvious benefits of the exercise program, the participants also benefit from sharing the class with one another.
“We have a wonderful time here,” Jill Latell says to me after a recent class session. “My daughter said we should do a video of this class and put it on Comedy Central,” laughs one woman. As Stroud urges her pupils to flex their muscles, one of them shouts out, “What muscles?”
But this is serious business for the men and women who realize exercise will help them continue their active lifestyles on Key Biscayne.
“It’s an inspiration when people see what they can do,” says Stroud. And Martin Fischer chimes in, “These exercises help me with my balance and increase my flexibility.”
The participants sit in chairs for about half the exercises and stand for the other half. As I watch the men and women do such things as stretching their arms, lifting their legs and marching in place, I find myself focusing on one man who has great difficulty moving his arms and legs. Pat later explains he has had two strokes.
“He just used to sit here,” she tells me. “He never did anything. But now he does stuff–he’s connecting.”
That’s what this class is all about–spending an hour connecting with one’s own body and then connecting afterwards over cups of coffee and lively conversation with fellow classmates. As more and more older adult residents involve themselves with either the live or televised exercises, perhaps there will be no more fall(ing) seasons.

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. It would be great if you subscribed to our RSS feed or signed up for email updates to get more goodness. There’s lots more where this came from!