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Instructor still teaching at water aerobics 89
Jannet Shumate hasn't discovered the fountain of youth, but she has found a magical swimming pool.
Five days a week Shumate dons a swimsuit and jumps into the pool at Sunny Sands RV Park for her beloved water aerobics classes. But this avowed water lover isn't a student. Shumate is the much-loved teacher and she swears that keeping active in the pool shaves decades off her years - all 89 of them.
"I think the water is my best friend," she said, beaming. "I just feel wonderful when I'm in the water."
Shumate teaches rigorous, half-hour lessons that begin with jogging in place for 1,000 motions, then launches into an animated lesson of bends, leg lifts and twists - with a few parts set to music.
"We do several exercises to song, like 'Row Row Row Your Boat,'" she said. "We skip the rope, too, and of course we say 'One Two Buckle Your Shoe.' It's just a fun thing and everyone takes part."
Shumate's water aerobics classes are famous at Sunny Sands RV Park, which was recently the site of a special celebration. Shumate's adoring students threw her a party to celebrate her 25th year of making waves at Sunny Sands. About 30 people showed up to play bingo and eat her favorite meal - pizza.
"We just love her. She's one in a million, that's for sure," said aerobics student Rita Girard. "To be moving like she is at 89 is pretty remarkable. Sometimes we have a hard time keeping up with her."
Shumate gives all the credit to the water, which she said really does feel like her natural habitat.
"I can do things in water that I can't do on land now that I'm this old," she said. "I learned how to swim when I was 1 year old and I've been swimming ever since."
Shumate grew up in Michigan and always lived near Lake Michigan or Lake Huron. She started lifeguard training with the Red Cross at age 12 and went on to teach swimming at her high school and at summer camps.
She also once shared the pool with Olympic swimmer Johnny Weismuller, who is best known for playing "Tarzan."
"He performed at my town's carnival one year," Shumate recalled. "We spent three days demonstrating swimming and diving for the public. Oh, he was a great person."
In addition to her education work in the pool, Shumate also taught in various schools. Her career in education spanned 30 years.
"I taught everything from kindergarten all the way through English 101 at two universities," she said proudly.
Shumate and her husband started spending their winters here in 1982. She moved to Yuma for good after her husband died in 1994.
Around 15-20 women show up each morning for water aerobics with Shumate. All are residents of Sunny Sands.
"I think I gain so much from this because I've made so many good friends," Shumate said.
She stressed that keeping busy is the secret to feeling good at 89, an age she said she never honestly thought she'd see.
"My family are all very short-lived. My mother died at 63. My father died at 74. So I never thought I would reach this age," Shumate said. "I just think that as long as you keep doing things you'll be fine. Just take the best you can get in life and enjoy what you've got."
She lived at the park for 19 years, but has since moved in with her daughter, Jannet Banks.
Banks marveled at her mother's ability to keep going to strong despite having arthritis in both knees and having broken a hip a while back. But Shumate shrugs off those physical challenges as long as she's got a swimming pool around.
"I am limited on land," she said. "Only in water am I free."
Darin Fenger can be reached at
email@example.com or 539-6860.