GREEN: Green Family YMCA members and staff wore their support of Bob Fritzsche on T-shirts proclaiming their membership on the “Yoga Bob” team Tuesday.
Fritzsche, who at age 84 teaches a 5:30 a.m. yoga class, an 8:30 a.m. Silver Sneakers class, a 7 p.m. Pilates class, then rounds off his Tuesday and Thursday with a second yoga class, was diagnosed with leukemia three months ago. It’s the first time the popular Fritzsche, who espouses the benefits of exercise and daily hugs for good health, has ever been seriously ill, said his daughter, Julie Davis of Green.
“The first hint that there was something wrong was in a class. My sister Deb was in the class,” she said.
After the class concluded, Davis said her sister, who is a nurse, took Fritzsche’s blood pressure, sat with him awhile and took it again. She told him it was time to find out what was wrong.
Fritzsche, who retired from Goodyear as an aerospace engineer, used exercise to combat stress while he worked, Davis said.
“He started with Jack LaLanne, but yoga has always been his thing,” she said.
Fritzsche was released from the hospital Tuesday while fellow staff members filled in for him teaching his classes.
A well-attended Silver Sneakers class for seniors 65 or older and people with disabilities was being taught by Wellness Director Christine Sayre.
Magdalena Schler, 81, of New Franklin, is the only remaining member from Fritzsche’s first class in 2003 to continue participating in the exercise regime. She said she and her husband, Stefan, who died in 2007, enjoyed the classes so much they sometimes pulled pranks on Fritzsche during classes.
“I miss him so much. I hope he can come back at least for a visit,” Schler said Tuesday.
Staff members, many who competed in the Akron Marathon last week wearing Yoga Bob Team shirts in Fritzsche’s honor, began selling the shirts to help the yoga master during his illness.
By Tuesday, proclaimed “Yoga Bob Day,” 175 T-shirts had been sold for $12 each.
Tracy Williams, member experience director for the Y, said it was characteristic that Fritzsche donated the money raised in the sale back to the agency to be used for a scholarship fund.
“That’s the kind of guy he is,” Williams said. “The money is going to our Partners with Youth program for people who don’t have the means to pay fees here,” she said.
Fritzsche is popular with members because he makes exercising fun, Williams said. They never know when he might break out in song, lead the class in the Hokey Pokey or tell jokes like a comic doing a stand-up routine.
“We all feel Bob deserves his due. He’s done so much for others in the community,” Williams said.
Fritzsche teaches Silver Sneakers classes at the Greenview Inn, an assisted-living center in Green, on Wednesdays. He is a member of the Kiwanis and has served on the Zoning Commission for the city he has called home for more than 50 years, Davis said.
He graduated from The Citadel Military Academy in South Carolina and served in the Navy. He has four daughters, 14 grandchildren and is a member of The Chapel in Green.
He began teaching fitness classes voluntarily when the Y opened its doors in 2000 before he was offered a paid position. He especially loves working with children at the center.
“He’s my head go-to guy for health fairs,” Williams said.
Daytime greeter Jill Hershberger got teary-eyed as she spoke about Fritzsche on Tuesday.
“He is a wonderful guy. He gives us all hugs,” she said.
That’s in keeping with the kind of man he is, Davis said.
“His motto is, ‘You need 10 hugs a day to be healthy,’ ” she said.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.