Exceptional People: Jeanne Kirsch
Meet Jeanne Kirsch
“I was born with a passion for sports and fitness, and loved them from far back as I can remember.”
Jeanne was born on her grandfather’s homestead near White Lake, SD in 1934. She attended a one-room country school and began teaching in that same school at the age of 17. Although Jeanne loved sports and yearned to participate, few were available during those years for girls.
“A big incentive when I was in grade school was the pictures of the athletes on the Wheaties cereal boxes. I had an area on the farm which I used as a track and run it by myself, imagining many others were with me as I crossed the finish line in first place!”
“My mother was an extraordinary person. She was very intelligent and encouraged me to attend summer sessions at Northern State Teachers College in Aberdeen. There was a teacher shortage allowing me to begin teaching at 17.”
“I was a shy and quiet person and I remember all through my life, from the time I was very small at how my mother, a simple farm wife, was at ease with anyone she came in contact with including important people. She set an example for me to follow, although I never feel I accomplished it.”
“Mother encouraged us to exercise and though times were tough we had ice skates, croquet sets and a bike, balls and other things available. I remember her often stretching, touching her toes, as I would walk through the kitchen. My sisters and I would walk with a book on our heads to improve our posture. We would get outside at times regardless of the weather to get fresh air.”
“Although my dad was not big on education beyond grade school, academics were important to mother and all five of us children went to college with a bit of help from home to get started.”
An annual ride from Rapid City to Cedar Pass Lodge near Interior in the beautiful Badlands of SD.
The Senior Games opened up a whole new world for her and Jeanne participated in every event she has time for.
She believes the Senior Games are an incentive for year round fitness and attributes them for a large part of why she is in the condition she is in today.
In the first state games she participated in, she was chosen outstanding female athlete, competing in 17 events, winning 15 and setting some age group records.
Jeanne has many hobbies, besides writing, which include antique bike collection, beer collection and Vintage Virtues statues with inspirational verses on each for grandchildren.
Jeanne participated in the Rapid City 10-mile time trials for many years and hiked the entire 111 mile Centennial Trail in five consecutive days and biked the 110-mile Mickelson Trail in one day at two different times while in her 70’s.
Jeanne and her husband, Richard have participated in many long distance bike rides throughout the years including one across the state for their 35th anniversary.
She taught the Mountain Bike Class at the State Outdoor Woman’s Workshops for many years and has always promoted fitness in many ways.
Craig had her on a bike the first day she came to work and he encouraged her and assisted with her training throughout the years.
The rest of her family and especially her husband have always supported her.
She credits her son Craig for her lifetime enjoyment of competing in cycling. When Jeanne and Richard sold their KOA Campground in the Badlands and joined Craig at Two Wheeler Dealer and Cycling and Fitness stores in Rapid City and Spearfish.
“I am busier now than when I worked full time. Although teaching and owning our businesses were enjoyable and satisfying with me the day I retired other things filled in.”
“I have always had a shut in or elderly person as a good friend and to help out”.
“All five of our children and many grandchildren live here in Rapid City, so much of my time is with them attending sporting events, cycling, hiking and being active in church affairs.”
“Regular physical activity over long periods of time can produce long-period health benefits. That’s why experts say that older adults should be active every day to maintain their health. This does not mean riding a bike 20 miles! There are many types of exercises for everyone—people who are healthy as well as those who live with an ongoing health problem or disability. Activities like pushing your grandchild in the swing, raking leaves, standing on tiptoes to reach something on the top shelf, or walking up and down stairs or around the block. Do some errands on foot instead of driving. It helps to find a friend who can do some these things with you.”
“Exercise and physical activity benefit every area of your life, they can:
- Help maintain and improve your physical strength and fitness.
- Help improve your balance.
- Help manage and prevent diseases like diabetes, hearth disease, breast and colon cancer and osteoporosis.
- Help reduce depression and improve mood and overall well being.
Jeanne further states: “I have been very lucky as I always loved to exercise and compete and I have had no serious injuries or health problems.”
“ When I hear people saying: ‘They wish they had done that when they could’ I think to myself when I can no longer do things, I want to be able to say ‘I am glad I did that when I could.”
When asked if she thought she is healthier than most people her age, her answer was:
“Yes, I believe I am and I am very grateful every day."
Jeanne’s advice is: “You make your own decision on what you eat and whether you exercise. Do you want to stuff yourself with the wrong food and not exercise at all or choose to be healthy and active?”
In my 70’s I discovered a passion for writing recollections that present intimate and detailed portraits of those I was involved with throughout my lifetime. Books that I have written are:
- Memories of a One-Room Country School
- Tuesdays With Natalie (a shut in)
- KOA-Oasis in the Badlands (campground we built and managed for fourteen years)
- Life and Times of Mary K. Anderson (a shut-in) co-authored with my daughter
- The Way They Were (my parents)
- Dep & Rose (husbands parents)
- Earlier I co-authored, Bike Rides in the Black Hills, Badlands and Prairies with Daley
Some books I sold, others are just for grandchildren and for future generations.
A Typical Week in Jeanne’s Life
“When I wake up, I take a short time for meditation before rising. I usually have a list made out the night before of the most necessary things I need to accomplish for the day. I try to exercise, aerobics or strength training every day allowing myself to miss one day of the week. At time I do just a half hour work out, other times it can be a long bike ride. I have several church events to attend each week and I usually take care of younger grandchildren and attend event of older ones or bike or hike with them. I take time to visit friends and I love outside work so spend any time I can afford in our large yard or at our ‘Little House on the Prairie’ acreage near Scenic.”
When I asked Jeanne for this interview, she had to make time, because she does not sit around and wonder what she is going to do today.
In reply to my asking if there was anything she wanted to change in her life she said; “I would like to be able to completely relax more often. I seem to always be hurrying to the next thing I want to do. Actually I am a bit too busy, but I find throughout my life, this is when I seem to be the happiest.”
When I met Jeanne in our writing group, she was a very busy person and had to make time to meet our writing group. When our Senior Center would ask Jeanne for volunteer help, she would look at us very carefully and reply that she would have to see if she had any free time. This article helps explains how Jeanne is so involved and busy in life that she has to stop and think whether she has any free time, I know what Jeanne’s answer is- what would your answer be?
Jeanne says: “Faith, family and fitness is what my life always has been and is about.”
Jeanne practices what she believes. She maintains a schedule that suits her and has a routine of exercising and eating healthy. She is involved not only with her family and church but in her community as well. She is an inspiration to people of all ages.
If you would ask her family if she has been an inspiration to them, they will answer with a big resounding “Yes, in both faith and fitness.”