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An Uplifting Endeavor: Powerlifting Finds a Fan in 84-year-old Stinson 

  • Jack Stinson, 84, lifts weights at the CCBA last week. He set several American Powerlifting Association records at the APA New England Regional Championships. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Jack Stinson, 84, lifts weights at the CCBA last week. He set several American Powerlifting Association records at the APA New England Regional Championships. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jack Stinson recently set several American Powerlifting Association records at the sanctioning body’s New England Regional Championships in Connecticut. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Jack Stinson recently set several American Powerlifting Association records at the sanctioning body’s New England Regional Championships in Connecticut. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clad in his Thor’s Stone Athletic Club T-shirt, Hanover’s Jack Stinson, 84, does a squat exercise during a workout at Lebanon’s Carter Community Building Association free-weight room on Monday. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Clad in his Thor’s Stone Athletic Club T-shirt, Hanover’s Jack Stinson, 84, does a squat exercise during a workout at Lebanon’s Carter Community Building Association free-weight room on Monday. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover’s Jack Stinson talks with fellow Thor’s Stone AC member Jane Higgins during a workout break at the CCBA on Monday. Stinson said that Higgins gave him motivation to compete at  APA New England Regional Championships in Connecticut last month. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Hanover’s Jack Stinson talks with fellow Thor’s Stone AC member Jane Higgins during a workout break at the CCBA on Monday. Stinson said that Higgins gave him motivation to compete at APA New England Regional Championships in Connecticut last month. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jack  Stinson, 84, works out at the CCBA in Lebanon. He recently set several American Powerlifting Association records at the APA New England Regional Championships in Connecticut<br/>. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Jack Stinson, 84, works out at the CCBA in Lebanon. He recently set several American Powerlifting Association records at the APA New England Regional Championships in Connecticut
    . (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jack Stinson, 84, lifts weights at the CCBA last week. He set several American Powerlifting Association records at the APA New England Regional Championships. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Jack Stinson recently set several American Powerlifting Association records at the sanctioning body’s New England Regional Championships in Connecticut. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Clad in his Thor’s Stone Athletic Club T-shirt, Hanover’s Jack Stinson, 84, does a squat exercise during a workout at Lebanon’s Carter Community Building Association free-weight room on Monday. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Hanover’s Jack Stinson talks with fellow Thor’s Stone AC member Jane Higgins during a workout break at the CCBA on Monday. Stinson said that Higgins gave him motivation to compete at  APA New England Regional Championships in Connecticut last month. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Jack  Stinson, 84, works out at the CCBA in Lebanon. He recently set several American Powerlifting Association records at the APA New England Regional Championships in Connecticut<br/>. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Hanover — Always civic-minded, Jack Stinson joined the Thor’s Stone Athletic Club because he believes self improvement and organized competition to be vital elements in society.

It didn’t take long for the octogenarian to find his own place on the powerlifting floor.

Never having lifted a weight in his life until being recruited by coach Carl Wallin last year — the former Dartmouth College throwing coach had first tried unsuccessfully to lure Stinson’s son, Jack Jr. — Stinson has been a regular participant at TSAC’s workout sessions at the Carter Community Building Association’s Witherell Center since last winter.

Enjoying the company as much as the exercise, the former U.S. Army lieutenant commander slowly enhanced his capacity for weightlifting and showed off his progress in a big way Dec. 8 at the American Powerlifting Association New England Regional Winter Championships in New Hartford, Conn.

Competing in the 80-84 age group and 201-pound weight class, Stinson set APA standards in the full squat (130 pounds), bench press (130) and dead lift (205). While the standards might be considered a culmination of the Korean War veteran’s dedication to his newfound passion, Stinson enjoyed the championship event more for the atmosphere than his results.

“Sure, I walked away with some medals, but that’s pretty much nonsense to me,” said Stinson in an interview last week in Hanover, where he served for years as town manager. “The value of the whole experience is to see people of all ages competing for personal achievement. Everyone from kids to people my age, it’s really something to see.

“These people spend months and years of their lives putting time into this endeavor. They’re very dedicated and supportive of each other. They’re not really competing with each other as much as they are with ourselves.”

A free-to-join organization that meets four times per week, Wallin’s Thor’s Stone affords serious weightlifters and first-timers like Stinson the opportunity to work toward goals in a group setting. Even at his age, it’s something Stinson appreciates.

“It’s almost the same great feeling you get when you watch Little League baseball,” he said. “You’ve got fathers and mothers coaching these kids. Everyone knows most of them aren’t training to be professional ballplayers, but the parents still put in hundreds of thousands of hours to help their children develop. And their development is internal as much as it is (physical).”

Wallin had originally hoped to lure Jack Jr., who works at the family’s Stinson’s Village Store on Allen Street.

“(Jack Jr.) works with a lot of beer kegs. I guess Carl thought that if he can carry those around all the time, he should be able to throw some weight, too,” the elder Stinson said. “He couldn’t get Jack to come on, so he said, ‘What about you?’ and I said, ‘What the heck? I’m not doing anything else.’ ”

Stinson admitted it was difficult to measure up to others at the gym at first.

“There are guys there who could lift my garage,” he said.

Stinson’s contributions to the group have been embraced wholeheartedly, Wallin said.

“This guy’s attitude is so uplifting, it’s unbelievable,” Wallin said. “He’s never in a bad mood. I can get him to laugh any time I want.

“Just for him to compete (in the New England Regional championships) tells you a lot about him. He had to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to catch his ride and probably didn’t get done competing until 7 p.m. That’s a long day for someone his age.”

A native of Watertown, Mass., Stinson sprinted for the track team at Cambridge’s Rindge School of Technical Arts as a high schooler, but never so much as experimented with throwing.

After leaving his undergraduate studies in civil engineering at Northeastern University to fight in Korea — “I was convinced the world was going to end if I didn’t join,” he joked — Stinson finished his degree at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he played two years of soccer.

Marrying his wife, Barbara, when he was a senior at WPI, Stinson went on to serve as town manager at several Massachusetts towns before coming to Hanover for the same position in 1972.

He had six children, five of whom became prolific amateur skiers. As for his own athletic exploits, Stinson doesn’t foresee putting the weights down for good any time soon.

“The great thing is, I’m turning 85 next year and that will be me in the next age group,” he said. “Time to set some more records.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

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“It’s a good group of kids,” says Jack Stinson, as he leaves a small square of cement in a field of green grass. “Kids,” of course, is a relative term, since Stinson, 85, is only 20 years older than the youngest of the group, Jane Higgins, who is 65. Both Stinson and Higgins have been profiled by the Valley News …