Union County

Folks at Indian Trail gym say 83-year-old is ‘rock star’

Harris Cohen, 83, works out for about an hour at Fitness Connection in Indian Trail, although his daughter, Renee Cohen, said about 20 minutes of that time is socializing. “Almost everyone knows him,” she said.
Harris Cohen, 83, works out for about an hour at Fitness Connection in Indian Trail, although his daughter, Renee Cohen, said about 20 minutes of that time is socializing. “Almost everyone knows him,” she said. KIM BECKNELL WILLIAMS

Most days, you’ll find Harris Cohen working out at Fitness Connection in Indian Trail. He keeps a routine, and the gym workers know when to expect him.

At 83 years old, Cohen inspires others with his exercise regimen and his sense of humor.

“He is just awesome,” said Kim Barney, a trainer at the gym. “Everybody loves him.”

According to his daughter, Renee Cohen, he sometimes passes out suckers to other gym members, and he always has candy in his mouth.

“Almost everyone knows him, and many come up to me and tell me what a great, funny, likeable (and) sweet guy he is,” she said. “The staff is eager to see him coming through the door every morning. It’s like arriving at church for the meet and greet.”

Renee Cohen drives her father to and from the gym, and says they work out for about an hour – although she added about 20 minutes of that time is socializing. He lifts weights and does strength training first, working his way through the gym. Harris Cohen and his daughter usually end up beside each other on treadmills at the end of their workouts.

“I see Harris almost every day around noon. Some days when I lack motivation, I will see Harris hitting the machines and the treadmill,” said Scott Hill, a member at the gym. “He’s like a rock star. He creates energy and enthusiasm. He is infectious.”

But Harris Cohen didn’t always exercise. In 2005, he had triple bypass surgery and went through cardiac rehabilitation.

“They said I was able to exercise and I should do it,” Cohen said.

So he started exercising; since then, he has joined several gyms.

“It beats the alternative,” Cohen said, “of sitting on your fanny, and then you’re looking up at daisies.”

He said he feels better and keeps in shape now that he exercises regularly. But he admits that he also enjoys socializing at the gym.

“Nice people are here, and we chitchat,” he said. “It keeps me in touch with the world.”

It appears that everyone really does know who Harris Cohen is at Fitness Connection. This was evident when I arrived at the gym and explained who I was and who I was interviewing.

Vernon Porter, the service manager, said it would be a few more minutes before Cohen arrived.

“He always cracks jokes,” Porter said. “I talk to him all the time. He always has a good story for me.”

Cohen is married to Wanda, his wife of 55 years. In addition to their daughter, Renee, they have a son, Brett, and two grandchildren.

“My dad has always been so social … at the grocery store, drugstore,” Renee Cohen said. “He’s the mayor wherever he goes. Every day is a Harris Cohen comedy tour.”

Soon after arriving, Harris Cohen was busy lifting weights beside young, burly guys. He smiled and seemed to be the most content of the bunch.

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Kim? Email her at kbwjcw@infionline.net.

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