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100-year-old Northfield great-grandpa never skips leg day

LINWOOD — Don DeGrazia doesn’t grip the 10-pound free weights for long before he shifts down the shelves at Body in Balance Fitness Center and decides he will work out with a heavier pair.

Anyone watching his technique as he lies down on the bench and uses one fluid motion to press the 15-pound weights up above his head and toward the center of his chest can see he’s an experienced gym member.

But what most won’t guess just by looking at Don is that he is 100 years old.

“I love telling people when they’re in the gym with Don how old he is,” said Lori Wagner, Don’s personal trainer. “It’s hard to believe.”

There are about 10 workout machines in the small fitness center on Central Avenue, and Don sits down at just about all of them as he glides through his 45-minute routine. Adding weight with a smooth pull of the metal pin and a quick twist of the small dial, he’s off and moving.

“I like the feeling that I get from exercise,” Don says. “I get a spring in my walk.”

Don goes to the fitness center three times a week and joined two years ago, but his son Gregg DeGrazia, 58, said his father has been active for as long as he can remember.

“He’s 100 years old in body, but I think in his mind he’s 30,” he said.

Don was born Aug. 7, 1918, and grew up in Atlantic City before moving to his home in Northfield in the 1950s. He worked as a systems analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration, retiring at 75 from the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township.

He grew up playing baseball and some football and coached his two sons’ sports teams. Don, who now has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, said he has lost some of his athletic ability, but has joined Body in Balance to get some of it back.

“Most of all, I want to maintain flexibility and some agility and movement,” he said.

Don, who also takes a boxing class at the gym, enjoys the community atmosphere at Body in Balance, which has 75 to 100 active members.

“You’re such a show-off,” a fellow gym member says to Don as he waits for her to finish on a machine so he can demonstrate his workout.

The two share a laugh, and Don sits down to start his set.

“Don is inspirational to all of us here, myself included, but all the members,” Wagner said.

Even when he gets to what he says are his least favorite machines — the leg extension and the overhead press — a quiet determination comes over Don as he pushes himself to get it all done.

“It feels so good when you’re finished,” he said. “I just feel like running out the door, running around the block.”

Along with staying active, Gregg thinks his father’s positive attitude has helped him live a long life.

“I don’t think he worries about anything. That’s what I think it is,” he said. “He just doesn’t stress or worry about anything. He just lets any small problem roll off his back and doesn’t lose any sleep or stress about it.”

Don also credited his longevity to his diet. Gregg says his father eats a lot of tomatoes and adds olive oil to everything. But Don doesn’t like to limit himself too much.

“There is no food that I don’t like,” Don said. “Just anything that’s edible.”

The avid traveler continues to go to the beach and fish with his family. He recently spent two weeks in Italy and plans to go golfing in Florida.

“We don’t even think about his age. We just automatically include him in everything,” Gregg said.

Don has more trips on his list, but he doesn’t plan on giving up his workouts anytime soon.

“Think young,” Don said. “Don’t be afraid to daydream. It doesn’t hurt.”

Contact: 609-272-7239 Twitter @AublePressofAC

Staff Writer

I report breaking news and cover the local stories at the Press's digital desk. I grew up in South Jersey and graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2017 with a degree in English.

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