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100-year-old Victoria woman swims strongly through life

Aug. 17, 2011 at 3:17 a.m.

DeTar Health and Fitness director Philip Garza puts 100-year-old Thelma Franz through the paces of water aerobics. Still going strong, Franz attributes daily exercise like water aerobics for her longevity.

Thelma Franz may not be up to swimming the English Channel, but at 100 years old, she definitely can pull her own weight.

The Victoria resident does water aerobics and assisted swimming at DeTar Health Center twice a week.

"I've been very active all my life," said Franz, a light-hearted, comedic woman, who had no shame in taking off her raincoat to reveal her chic, polka-dotted one piece bathing suit.

Franz claims the triple-digit age crept up on her.

Franz lives independently and though she no longer drives, her driver's license does not expire until she turns 102.

"She's an inspiration to a lot of people," said Franz's daughter Vicki Bauknight as she watched her mother use a noodle to paddle from one side of the pool to the other.

Water has always been a part of Franz's life.

Growing up, Franz was one of the few kids who had a swimming pool. Then, when she went to college at Southwest Texas State University, she taught swimming.

Up until recently, Franz also walked two miles a day and did sit down calisthenics at home, but a recent back problem has her sidelined as she recovers.

She has also taught eight of her 12 grandchildren to read.

She's confident she will be working on the next four, she said.

Franz has no real secret to living a long life. But there is one rule she follows.

"Eat your chocolates every day," she said laughing.

Franz is the oldest member at the health center, said Philip Garza, the center's director and Franz's trainer.

"She's a teacher to me as much as I'm a teacher to her," Garza said.

During their 30-minute workout, they use hydro-tone dumbbells underwater and blue paddles with slits to work the arms and easily cut through the water.

"It's not as easy as it looks," Franz said laughing.

Garza has worked with her for two years and is easily captivated by her ability to stay in shape and her bubbly, alert personality, he said.

"She's just so down-to-earth and full of knowledge and she's been there," he said. "Living for 100 years, she's gone through a lot. She's an inspiration.

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