Bethel area walkers inside Gould Academy’s Farnsworth Field House circle the track on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — “For those of us that are a little dog-eared now, this is great, this flat walk with other people.” said Monica Mann, “we’re a little old and worn like the pages of a book.”

From 1 – 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays the Gould Fieldhouse is filled with seniors, instead of teens. About 12 walkers circled the track on a recent Thursday.

Mann, of Woodstock walked beside Lia Paliocha, of Newry, who said, “It’s a motivator I’m recuperating from long COVID. One solid year of no energy. I want to get out of the house and be in a place where there are other people… for health and good spirits.”

“During the bad weather, I’m really appreciative that Gould has opened up this space so we can come and do this. I don’t have a lot of equipment and appropriate clothing to go back country snow shoeing,” said Mann.

Dave Keniston, left, and Bob Okie lead other Bethel area walkers inside Gould Academy’s Farnsworth Field House. Rose Lincoln

Paliocha agreed. “I can’t ski anymore because I ruined my knee … I’m grateful to have a place to be inside.”

Mann speeds up as Paliocha continues, “this is the first year in my entire life that I have not gained weight in the wintertime.”


Carol Fimiani and her daughter Vicky Fimiani, of Hanover, are walking the track at a quick clip. Carol said, “I’m race-walking, so I can finish.” Her daughter said that her mother has had major surgeries, including a broken leg and several reconstructive surgeries. Twice she was in a wheelchair post-surgery. “She’s asking to come,” so it must be motivating. Carol Fimiani moved from Ohio to Hanover to be with her daughter a year ago.

Bob Oikle of Albany is walking with Dave Keniston, of Greenwood. As they pass Mann and Paliocha, Oikle shouts something and they all laugh. Oikle is wearing beads, a gift from Paliocha.

Dave Keniston had come with his wife, Jodi, but he and Oikle are speed walking together, and Jodi is walking alone. The two men are talking intently. Turns out they have similar DIY projects, they are both renovating their bathrooms.

At half past the hour, the group about-faces. “Someone always tries to upstage me, like today. They like to make a big deal of it, if I’m not paying attention. It’s one of the fun things,” said Oikle.

Bethel area walkers inside Gould Academy’s Farnsworth Field House. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

Oikle was a CEO at the Portland YMCA and had done every Y job before he reached that pinnacle. He said it’s not important how much you do for exercise, what’s important is consistency.

Jackie Kressy started the walking program with Oikle five years ago. The afternoon walk was followed by Kressy’s tai chi class in Newry at 2:30. Now Kressy has moved away, so while a few students still head to the new Tai Chi class, there is not the caravan of cars heading to the Newry Grange as there was before.

Forty-five people are signed up and on at least one day this winter, they had 25 walkers circling the track . To join the group, “you walk in, sign a release and you’re good,” said Oikle who said the group will be walking at the fieldhouse until the early April, at least.

“This year more than any other, the social aspect [was very important], I don’t know if it was because of COVID or being cooped up or what, but it just blossomed. People got reacquainted. They knew each other but they hadn’t seen each other.” he said.

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