Eleanor Finken arrived for aerobics class at Community Thread on Wednesday just as she has for the past 25 years.
But when Stillwater’s 96-year-old queen for the day walked through the doors of the senior center in Stillwater and saw it decked out in her favorite color, pink—she was overwhelmed.
“I just hope I stay conscious,” she said.
It was Eleanor Finken Day—and she was honored with the award for the “most chronologically gifted pupil to ever attend the class.”
Eleanor turned 96 in September and has attended the aerobics class since it started in the Stillwater senior center 25 years ago.
“At that time, I needed more exercise than just house work,” Eleanor said. “It’s perfect.”
For an hour two days a week, Eleanor does aerobics to the sounds of everything from Polka to Paul Simon. The class instructor, Kathy Oertel will be the first to point out that at 96 years old, Eleanor’s steps may have gotten smaller, but she still keeps the rhythm and the beat.
She and her classmates warm-up, work out, cool down—and of course, mingle.
“This class is all about strengthening the mind and body and uplifting the spirit,” Oertel said.
Eleanor is the mother of four children—Colette, Paul, Mark and Mary. At 96 years old, she still lives in the home her and her late husband purchased on the North Hill in 1948.
“She always says, there were two houses for sale in Stillwater at that time,” her daughter Colette Preimeberger said. “The one they bought and one that didn’t have indoor plumbing.”
After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Eleanor walked into Lakeview Hospital and told hospital staff she wanted to work there.
The staff member countered by asking when she wanted to start, and from that day forward Eleanor worked there—on a variety of levels—for her entire career, retiring as the Director of Nursing Services in 1978.
Today, aerobics is Eleanor’s main activity, but she also enjoys reading, watching television, playing bridge, going to church—and having a meal at Joseph’s afterward—and taking short walks with her 10-year-old Chihuahua, Tia. Those who know Eleanor also gush about her homemade wines and jams.
Eleanor drove to the aerobics class up until four years ago when she gave up her license, now her daughter Colette drivers her to and from class every week.
This past summer, Eleanor had a pacemaker put in, and her doctor told her no aerobics for eight weeks, because she couldn’t lift her arms over her head.
“I couldn’t wait to get back to class,” Eleanor said. “These are my best friends.”
Throughout the years, Oertel said Eleanor has been one of the most faithful people to the class.
“Eleanor brings a sparkle to our class,” Oertel said. “She brings a light. Everyone holds her up as a mentor hoping that one day we will get up there in years and be able to do half the stuff Eleanor is doing. At 96, I’ve never seen anything like her.”