This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna
Every weekday at 9 a.m. nearly 20 people float in a heated pool at Rovella’s Gym. They listen attentively to their instructor for their next move. Workout music with loud beats echoes in the natatorium, or indoor pool. They attend the water classes for fun and exercise.
There’s a special trio hidden among the crowd who were born in the era of the Great Depression and the start of Hollywood’s “golden age.”
Mary Zanger, Wes Brookshire and Jane Dunn turned 91 in 2021. They are the eldest of the AquaFit Therapy class members.
“I loved the ’30s,” Zanger said. Her father always had a job at PG&E as an electrician. She said children didn’t know about the depression. Zanger enjoyed her childhood. As a kid, she bought bubblegum, Tootsie Roll, and lollipops for a penny.
Born on July 5, 1930, Zanger grew up in San Jose with her two sisters and graduated from Medical Center in San Jose. At 23 years old, she first spotted her husband on a dance floor, catching her eye from across the room. She laughed about how she desperately wanted to go dance with him, but could not, as Zanger was at the dance with someone else.
Eventually they got together and had four kids and five grandchildren. She has been living in Hollister for 67 years and retired as a pharmacist when she was 60.
“I like chemistry and I wanted to be someone,” Zanger said her mother had been supportive of her sisters and her to pursue an education.
“Downtown was wonderful back then”, she said. “There was a bakery, pharmacist and two banks. I could go in and out.”
Unable to come to the pool every day, Zanger said she joins the group as much as possible.
“It’s fun to come and I get to socialize with people I have never seen before,” Zanger said.
Brookshire, born in Hollister on Sept. 10, 1930, was raised here and likes to reminisce about how small the city was when he was growing up.
He said he remembers when San Benito High School had 500 students. Today the school population is over 3,000.
Brookshire went on to college and then served four years in the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed in Germany for three years during the Korean War.
He returned from his service and married his former classmate, Betty, in 1956. They have been together ever since, raising three kids and three grandchildren. They lost their daughter Susan in a traffic accident near Bolado Park on Highway 25.
Brookshire eventually exchanged his golf clubs for water trunks. He began attending AquaFit Therapy with Betty after she suggested he go. They have been regulars in the class for the past five years.
Dunn’s journey, which began 2,106 miles away, brought her eventually to Hollister. She was born on a farm in Illinois on Oct. 22, 1930, and grew up with seven siblings. She is the second-oldest among her sisters and brothers, four of whom are still alive and well.
Dunn was introduced to her husband by college friends. At 26, she married Allen Dunn, who was a math teacher for 40 years and coached track and field at San Benito High School.
Together they have three kids and two grandsons. During winters, they spend the holidays at one of their two lake houses.
Dunn said she remembers when she arrived at Hollister, there was only one street. She remained active, playing tennis at Ridgemark for 30 years,
She said the water class helps her stay healthy.
“It keeps them motivated,” said Anita Pedrazzi-Minkel, who instructs the class three out of the five days.
During sessions, she instructs everyone to exercise with pool noodles and aquatic dumbbells. They follow her instructions and exercise for 1 minute with each piece of equipment. Pedrazzi-Minkel looks forward to continuing the class. “Anyone is welcome to come and join,” she said, adding that “everyone is doing good in keeping in good shape.”
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