Tim Collins /News staff
Dona Devine isn’t your typical 90-year-old, but, according to the indefatigable Devine, there is no such thing as a typical nonagenarian (someone over 90) or a typical person of any age.
“Age isn’t something that should stop you from doing what you want to do. It’s a number and, honestly, I just sort of ignore it,” said Devine.
“Anyway, it’s not like I’m doing anything special.”
Despite that self-deprecation, the fact that Devine leads an aquatic fitness class for a group of neighbourhood seniors does tend to set her apart. Three times a week she welcomes anywhere up to eight participants to the backyard pool at her North Saanich home. She has equipped the pool with a variety of pool noodles, balls, hoops, and other paraphernalia; all to make for an hour or so of fun and laughter.
When asked what she charges for the classes, her response was indicative of her straightforward approach to life.
“Charge? Why the heck would I charge them anything? I do this because I enjoy it as much as they do.”
But Devine wasn’t always an aquatic fitness instructor.
Born in Saskatchewan, she began a teaching career there, but after two years entered the international school system where, along with her husband, Jack she began to travel the world. Those travels took her “pretty much everywhere” and eventually involved her children as well.
“We travelled all over. Jack was a geologist and we went where we had to go; later dragging our five children with us,” recounted Devine.
“The best part of the classes with Dona is the laughter. She is so full of life and so funny it’s hard not to laugh,” said Maggie Wood, one of the regulars in Devine’s classes.
“She pushes us pretty hard, but she does it in a way that’s always fun. We do this water volleyball thing where we have to keep the ball in the air and I think she and I set a record of 54 passes. That’s pretty darned good, I think,” said Wood.
Devine’s eldest son, Rick Devine, recalled his mother’s first foray into leading fitness classes.
“We were in Dubai and lived in an apartment complex full of ex-patriots. My mother got this group of people together and they called themselves the Aqua Ducks. They exercised, and then socialized. They even had t-shirts made that said Aqua Ducks,” laughed Rick, adding that when his mother returned home to North Saanich, she just continued the tradition.
“She is a remarkable woman, for sure. She’s raised five children, travelled the world and left her footprint wherever she went. As to being a strong woman; she certainly is … so were my sisters. The funny thing is that I grew up thinking that all women were like that. Someone would comment on how mom was a strong woman and I didn’t really know what they meant.
“As far as I knew, all women were that strong. I think, maybe, I was right.”