— Local senior defies age and keeps on moving.
Dorothy Davenport celebrated her 95th birthday in May and received 145 birthday cards—many from her Silver Sneakers friends at Gold’s Gym in Charles Town where she has worked out for the past ten years. Silver Sneakers is a fitness program for older adults. Dorothy participates to the best of her ability.
“I’m the only one who sits in a chair full time,” she laughed.
Her daughter Margaret noted, “For people who are standing, it’s aerobic. For those in the front row, it’s a sit-down practice,” adding, “It’s a great group of people, very social. They’ve had a couple surprise parties for mom. It’s a real joyful group of people.”
Dorothy continued, “I sit in the ‘front pew’ all the time because I need to hear. I have seventy percent hearing in one ear and I’m stone deaf in the other. I lip read and I have to pay close attention.”
Dorothy has actually been deaf in one ear since age seven, when she fell from the family horse. “There were three of us riding Dolly at once, and my sister went off first, and then my friend. She was hanging onto me and took me with her. Both of those girls got up and walked away, but I didn’t.”
A Winding Road to WV
Dorothy grew up a farmer’s daughter, born in Bureau County, Illinois. She always led an active life, with plenty of space to run around in and animals to care for. She also grew up with an awareness of physical fitness, since her aunt operated a summer camp for girls, with horseback riding, games, and activities.
Daughter Margaret recalls that her parents were very interested in nutrition and health and followed the teachings of nutrition guru Adele Davis. “We didn’t get any snack foods. It was celery sticks for us!”
Dorothy always enjoyed walking, be it the family dogs or just going for a long stroll. “I walked dogs, and everything there was to walk—then I got interested in finding a gym.”
She met her husband of 64 years, John Scott Davenport (who passed away in 2013), at a University of Illinois mixer, and they had four children together. He became publisher of a little newspaper, The Bureau Valley Chief, in Tiskilwa, Illinois, went on to work for E. W. Scripps newspapers, and then into academia. John wrote a book entitled Newspaper Circulation, which eventually led them to Charles Town.
With a master’s degree in special education from the University of Cincinnati, Dorothy taught reading and special education. “We moved around a lot, so I picked up work wherever we moved,” she said.
John had a serious interest in genealogical research and history. Dorothy recalled that in the 1970s, while they lived in Ohio, “Mr. Braxton Davenport [of Charles Town] called up one day. He saw my husband’s picture on a magazine [in connection with his book] and said, ‘Do you suppose we’re related?’ John said, ‘I don’t know, but we can sure find out,’ and he started digging around.”
They were unrelated, but the men bonded over their interest in genealogy. When John retired, he and Dorothy decided to move close to their daughter, Alice, who lives in Martinsburg. Braxton Davenport connected them with his nephew, Henry Davenport, who had a rental available on the family farm in Charles Town. John and Dorothy moved in, and Dorothy joined Gold’s Gym—where you can find her every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with her Silver Sneakers crew.