It began as simply as finding something to do while his wife, Carol, received physical therapy treatment at the Athletic Therapy Center in Belleville.
Fifteen years later, 82-year-old Jack Klopmeyer still visits the facility three times a week for a series of fitness workouts that keep him coming back for more.
Typically wearing khakis and a polo shirt — no stretchy neon-glow Under Armour gear for this workout warrior — Klopmeyer makes his way around the building using numerous weight machines and talking with friends.
“I don’t really change too much,” said Klopmeyer, a former construction contractor who lives in Mascoutah. “I’ve picked up a couple more machines now, I maybe do 15 or 16 different ones. I can get done in about an hour and 15 minutes if I don’t stop and talk. Some days it takes two hours to get out of there, but it’s all in fun.”
Klopmeyer isn’t the only “veteran” workout warrior taking advantage of the facility. There’s 84-year-old Roy Klingelhoefer from Mascoutah and many others ranging in age from 55 and older.
“I had one man in his 90s and he was still coming in, driving to and from our place and getting his half-hour to 45-minute workout in,” said Rich Wager, a certified athletic therapist and strength and conditioning specialist who owns and operates Athletic Therapy Center at the Family Sportsplex. “Whether it’s on a treadmill or just out in the neighborhood, if they can get out several times a week and get that heart rate up a little bit and exercise those muscles, it’s going to be beneficial for them.”
Klopmeyer was looking for a way to stay active after retirement.
“There’s a couple of guys over there that started for therapy and are sticking around,” Klopmeyer said. “You’ve got to do something, you can’t sit around and let moss grow on you. It helps to go to a place where you’ve got a feeling of being welcome and see familiar faces.”
Wager enjoys seeing those familiar faces, many of whom he has known for years.
“We had treated a lot of those people as patients or their spouse, and then they came along and started getting involved with fitness,” Wager said. “They felt comfortable coming to our place instead of an intimidating health club. They’re used to the machines and we’ve got a different atmosphere than most health clubs.”
Wager said the important thing is for older people to stay active — and keep moving.
“People are starting to realize you have to do that,” he said. “I always tell our people that are kind of out of shape that you lose the fight against gravity. It will win and pulls you into bad posture and positions.
“If you can continue to keep those muscles strong, muscles that work the shoulders and back that can keep you more upright, it’s going to help the body from breaking down so quickly.”
Klopmeyer was a top-notch two-sport athlete in his younger days and still looks a lot younger than 82.
The 1950 Mascoutah High graduate was a standout baseball and basketball player for the Indians. He recalled playing games in both sports against former St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog and Buddy Wirth, both of whom starred for New Athens at the time.
Klopmeyer also played baseball at old Stag Field in Belleville, played for the Mascoutah Merchants baseball team in the County League and also played fast-pitch softball at South Side Park in Belleville.
He also was drafted in the Army and spent time in the anti-aircraft artillery unit stationed in Alaska during the Korean War.
“I thought for sure I was going to Korea like everybody else,” said Klopmeyer, who was in the Army from 1952-54 and also attended leadership school training on the way to becoming a sergeant.
The former owner of a construction business still helps build homes for the Habitat for Humanity organization, not hesitating to jump right in with far younger workers during a project last summer.
“We had 14 guys out, all younger than I was and we worked from 9 in the morning until about 4 in the afternoon,” Klopmeyer said, recalling the hot and humid conditions. “After we were all done they said ‘I don’t know how you do that.’ I’ve always been that way. After the day was over they were pretty well beat and so was I.”’
Klopmeyer has never had a serious health problem and credits staying active, eating well and following a consistent workout routine for his success.
“I’ve never been in the hospital in my life,” he said. “At my age it gets kind of scary, you never know when the hammer’s going to fall. I feel good and that’s the main thing, and I enjoy what I do.”
Wager said Klopmeyer, also president of the Mascoutah Historical Society, is a living, breathing example of someone who stared down old age and refused to give in.
“I’m sure he watches what he eats and he’s been a hard-working guy all his life,” Wager said. “Owning a construction company, he’s always been very active. He doesn’t sit around. If there’s something to do, he’s fixing it or volunteering his time, building houses for the church, anything.”
Klopmeyer still rides a stationary bike, fishes and walks as much as he can. His workouts aren’t designed for anything other than quality of life.
“I’ve gone up from when I started, but I don’t put a whole lot of weight on,” he said. “I don’t try to put on any muscle mass or anything like that, I just want to keep limber with what I have. So far it’s worked out.”