Dorothy McGregor arrives at Lawrence Athletic Club on Mesa Way at 5:30 a.m., five days a week.
“Now that I’m getting a little older I sometimes start later — about 5:45 a.m.,” she says with a mischievous look in her eyes.
McGregor starts with 10 minutes of stretching and flexibility exercises, followed by 20 minutes of machine and free weights and ends with 30 minutes of cardio.
“So what?” you may ask. “Many people do that.”
What makes McGregor’s routine remarkable is that she’s 90.
Her body is lean and flexible, her mind sharp, and she’s excited about life’s learning opportunities. She didn’t start exercising until she retired, but learning has always been important to her.
She was born in Lawrence in 1918 and moved to her grandmother’s Emporia home in 1923 when her mother died.
“My mother’s early death shocked everyone,” McGregor says. “People on both sides of my family usually lived well into their 90s. My aunt Rachel, who was more like my sister, died last year at 104.”
When her father remarried, she returned to Lawrence, graduated from high school in 1936 and taught at rural schools for four years.
“I stayed with friends during the week because I’d no transport in those days,” she says. “My social life was somewhat limited. It mostly revolved around family and church. A lady with three sons invited me to a mother/daughter church event, then to a shower at her home. Her son Ronald was the only male there. He looked like a lost lamb, and I didn’t pay much attention to him.”
He noticed her. They dated on weekends and married in 1942, a month before he was drafted into the Army.
“That was hard,” she remembers. “I accompanied him to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and Fort Crowder, Missouri. When he was sent to the Philippines, I moved back to my grandmother’s home in Emporia.”
She graduated from Kansas State Teachers’ College and returned to Lawrence in 1946. Ronald got his doctorate in botany, and she received a master’s degree in education at Kansas University. She taught at New York School in Lawrence for 20 years, followed by another 20 as a language arts consultant for USD 497.
She retired at 66.
“I did the extra year, and that was it,” she says. “I’d seen people hang on and on. I didn’t want to do that, so I imposed decisions upon myself.”
She exercises her mind by reading voraciously.
“I’ve exhausted the library, but friends keep me well-supplied with books,” she says. “I love writing down moving quotes like ‘for you a thousand times over,’ from ‘The Kite Runner.’ Isn’t that a great quote?” she asks.
She repeats it softly.
Does it apply to her husband?
“Yes,” she says.
“We still like each other. We love spending time together, but we do our own thing as well. Some days Ron says: ‘Look at the beautiful sunshine, let’s sit outside,’ and I say, ‘Yeah, let’s get our dose of vitamin D,’ and out we go.”
She wants to continue learning and growing, and is determined to keep exercising.
“I want to stay at the top of the heap,” she says, “but I can’t do that sitting on a rocking chair all day.”