Walter Decker vs. Stelco Tower
Stair master, 92 breath of fresh air for Lung Association
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 email@example.com or 905-745-7416.
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.