Remembering Marion, my favorite fit feminist ninety something friend

Marion on Manitoulin Island, photo by Robert Corless

Recently I said goodbye to an old friend who’s been a wonderful source of fitness inspiration. She was one of the most alive people I’ve ever known.  Marion Corless died recently but not before finishing her guest blog post I’d been nagging her to do for a couple of years. Rumour has it she also completed some crafting and quilting projects in the hospital. She might have been 95 but she didn’t ever really slow down.

You can read her post, Fitness for Women (Old School!) here.

Marion and I traveled together in New Zealand, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and around Ontario as well. Her son Rob always joked, “The only trouble in traveling with Mother was keeping up.”

She’s the only person her age I’d ever met who wanted to do as much as she did when traveling. Her children joked about her pace. See above. But really it was no joke. On our west coast trip we collapsed into the hot tub at the hotel one night after a big day of hiking and sightseeing. Rob stood outside the hot tub to help her in, and I sat inside holding her arm. “Not sure why you’re making all this fuss,” she complained, as she hopped right in. No help needed.

In her blog post you can read about all the physical activities she loved but what I loved best about her was her sense of adventure.

Kayaking in the ocean in New Zealand? Sure! (I heard from her that some of her children were worried about her. She laughed and said, “What’s the worse that could happen? I could die. I’m in my 90’s you know?” I knew!) But what I loved was the idea of getting more adventurous with age. So many people seem to get more fearful. Afraid of falling, afraid of dying. But not Marion.

I also loved that she didn’t let limitations get in the way of adventure. My daughter Mallory and I were doing a triathlon/duathlon once while Marion was in town.  Read about our races here. Marion wanted to come visit and watch. But the event was in a fully naturalized provincial park. In the battle between letting things go wild and providing access for people with walkers, this park had gone for the former.

But no worries as they provided these amazing three wheeled wheelchairs with big tires suitable for off-roading and for the beach. I wasn’t sure how Marion would take to that. She’s pretty independent and called her cane “nuisance.” But she hopped in and had a blast as her son Rob pushed her up and down the dunes. She didn’t just demonstrate staying active into your 90s as a physical thing though it was that. She also demonstrated how much of it is about attitude, about feeling alive, and having fun.

I’d say “rest in peace, Marion” but “rest” never really was your style.

Here are some photos from our 2013 trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island which began in typical Marion Corless fashion with a message, “I hear you’re coming to Vancouver Island for a conference. Have you ever been to the west coast? It’s beautiful. You drive, don’t you? Good.” She’d already booked the hotels it turned out. There was no saying no to Marion’s travel plans.


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