Allen park residents Patrick Willey (left) 77, and his wife Norma, 75, pose with some of their medals from past Downriver Senior Olympics next to his 2000 Chrysler PT Cruiser, which took a second place recognition in last year’s car show. Patrick Willey says the car’s style is very similar to his first car, a 1937 Ford he bought used in 1950. Norma Willey has won medals in the ring toss, flying disc throw, darts and bocce, while Patrick has medaled in darts and bocce.
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Downriver seniors are ready for fun and games – and to see friends from other cities in a good-natured competition that has become an annual tradition.
The city is hosting the 25th Downriver Senior Olympics Aug. 2 to 6 at sites around town, and in neighboring communities.
The events begin tomorrow with a Breakfast of Champions hosted by Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, an opening ceremony and a fun walk in Champaign Park. The park will host the softball throw, ring toss, football throw, flying disc throw and soccer kick competitions on Monday as well.
The city’s community center will host a Monday baking contest display, a euchre tournament and a car show.
“You meet a lot of people,” said Norma Willey, 75, of Allen Park. “You see them every year. We really enjoy it.”
She has competed in the senior olympics since 2003, when her hometown last hosted the event. Her husband, Patrick, 77, started competing in 2004. Both have won multiple medals, Norma in ring toss, flying disc toss, darts and bocce ball; Patrick in darts and bocce ball.
“Years ago I got one in pinochle, and then I got a couple in shuffleboard,” Norma said.
“I started playing bocce about four years ago.”
Patrick earned a gold last year.
“I finally beat … the perennial winner,” he said. “The guy that wins at just about everything, I beat him one year in darts. Last year I triumphed over him in bocce ball. That felt pretty good when that happened.”
“The people that run (the Downriver Senior Olympics) are very nice,” Norma said. “They were going to (eliminate) the Senior Olympics about four years ago. Then (Ficano) stepped in and said, ‘No, we’re going to have it.’”
The Willeys say Ficano and U.S, Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) often attend the opening morning events.
Patrick credits his success to “determination and luck,” while Norma’s motto is “Try, try again.” She also admits to depending on luck as well.
Resident John Ford, 75, has participated in the Downriver Senior Olympics for 10 years, and has seen success in the softball throw, football toss, golfing and bowling. He played basketball, football and baseball as a student at Southwestern High School in Detroit, and credits his arm strength to his pitching days. He still practices his throwing in a local school yard.
Ford does sit-ups, lifts weights and works out at the community center. He also golfs every week when weather permits, bowls twice a week in the winter and carries a 182 average.
“I think (seniors) should start by walking,” Ford said, “and then do all your exercises.”
Cecilia Caulfield, an 87-year-old resident, will compete in euchre, bocce ball and bowling. She planned to practice at Roosevelt Lanes last week, but in mock horror declined a request from a photographer to capture her in the act.
Caulfield will be working on Tuesday’s primary election and will miss some events, like pinochle, because of it.