Wal­ter Decker vs. Stelco Tower

Stair master, 92 breath of fresh air for Lung As­so­ci­a­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JEFF MAHONEY jma­honey@thes­pec.com 905-526-3306

I have a pre­dic­tion.

On Satur­day, Feb. 4, a 92-yearold Hamilton man will be alarm­ingly high up the Stelco Tower, hav­ing scaled 23 or 24 floors, mak­ing his way briskly to the top; and dozens of fire­fight­ers, po­lice of­fi­cer and EMS work­ers will be run­ning up af­ter him.

What, is he King Kong? Is it some grand res­cue ef­fort? A se­cu­rity breach?

No. Those first re­spon­ders will be run­ning up an hour af­ter him, not to catch him — he’ll al­ready have made it to the top — but to win their leg of the sec­ond an­nual Steel­town Stair­climb, to raise money chiefly for lo­cal lung re­search. It’s 533 steps, 26 storeys.

They’ll be com­pet­ing in the “first re­spon­ders race” por­tion of the event.

Wal­ter, the afore­men­tioned 92year-old, will be in the civil­ian climb an hour ear­lier and not try­ing to set any records or beat any­one else’s time.

Wal­ter Decker, who lives in east Hamilton, al­ready has a record. Oldest per­son to climb the CN Tower. He’s done the CN stair climb twice now. He didn’t know about the in­au­gu­ral Steel­town Stair­climb of Stelco Tower last year.

But when he called the Lung As­so­ci­a­tion (Hamilton) to sign up for this year’s, they jumped all over him, fig­u­ra­tively. He’s “fa­mous,” af­ter all, and they made him their of­fi­cial am­bas­sador for this year’s climb.

I sit in Wal­ter’s lovely liv­ing room again, as I did a year-and-ahalf ago, be­fore his first CN Tower climb (1,700-plus steps). We’re joined by Su­san Chap­man, vol­un­teer/com­mu­nity en­gage­ment rep for the Lung As­so­ci­a­tion, whose new motto is Breathe.

“I start the day with 60 pushups, ev­ery morn­ing; it opens up your air pas­sages, flexes your limbs and tones mus­cles,” says Wal­ter, who does the Ke­nil­worth steps twice a week.

He looks in as good if not bet­ter shape than he did when I first met him in 2015.

So I’m sur­prised that his time — 49 min­utes — in his sec­ond CN climb was three min­utes slower than his first.

“It’s be­cause too many peo­ple kept stop­ping me to talk” and give con­grat­u­la­tions, says Wal­ter, with a chuckle.

“We are so thrilled to have Wal­ter as our am­bas­sador,” Su­san says.

Wal­ter en­cour­ages every­one to take part in this week’s Steel­town Stair­climb or, if you can’t, spon­sor some­one who can.

“It’s good ex­er­cise for the lungs and heart. Stay fit. Your body will thank you for it,” he says.

“And when you get to the top (of Stelco Tower),” says Su­san, “there’s a beau­ti­ful view of the city wait­ing for you through those big win­dows.”

She has an in­ter­est­ing story of her own. Head­ing into the home stretch of a strong ca­reer with a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion, look­ing ahead to re­tire­ment, she had a friend sug­gest, “There’s another chap­ter for you.”

The idea of pub­lic ser­vice grabbed her. She left her job and joined the lung as­so­ci­a­tion.

It’s so im­por­tant, she ex­plains, to tackle lung-re­lated res­pi­ra­tory and tho­racic is­sues like asthma, lung can­cer, em­phy­sema, bron­chi­tis, COPD (chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease) and oth­ers, in­clud­ing the haz­ards of radon ex­po­sure.

Such is­sues are of ob­vi­ous con­cern to fire­fight­ers. Hamilton 288 Lo­cal Fire­fight­ers is part­ner­ing with the Lung As­so­ci­a­tion and Health­care and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees’ Credit Union on the event.

Hamilton fire­fighter Adam Shea is tack­ling it again this year. His time last year? Four min­utes, 40 sec­onds or there­abouts, with 40 pounds of equip­ment and hav­ing just come off shift.

“I started dou­ble-step­ping it, but burned out. The lac­tic acid kicks in. But the last six or seven storeys, with peo­ple cheer­ing you on,” you get a sec­ond wind, he says.

The day, fea­tur­ing many medals (fastest fam­ily team, for in­stance) and prizes, starts 9 a.m. with reg­is­tra­tion at Hon­est Lawyer in Jack­son Square. Warm-ups (9:45 a.m.); civil­ian climb (10 a.m.); first re­spon­ders (11:30 a.m.); awards/ post-party (12:30 p.m. Hon­est Lawyer). Reg­is­tra­tion $38 adults; $19 chil­dren. Regis­ter at fire­fight­er­stc.ca or con­tact Su­san at schap­man@on.lung.ca or 905-745-7416.

CATHIE COWARD, THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR

Wal­ter Decker, 92, who will climb the Stelco Tower Satur­day, prac­tises by climb­ing into a pumper at Fire Sta­tion #8 on Melvin Street, en­cour­aged by Su­san Chap­man of the Lung As­so­ci­a­tion (Hamilton), and fire­fighter Brad Nor­ris.

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