Growing up with three older brothers – her seniors by 7, 9 and 11 years respectfully – it’s no surprise that Jerrie Lou Franse (pictured left), 76, has been participating in the Senior Olympics for two decades.
“I was a tomboy, and I played everything,” Franse said. “I played football with (my brothers), softball, basketball, table tennis… a little bit of everything.”
After teaching second- and fourth-grades for 30 years, Franse retired 20 years ago and began her involvement with the Senior Olympics.
She recently competed in the local competition, participating in 22 events. She walked away with one bronze, one silver and 20 gold medals.
“It’s not as good as you might think,” Franse said humbly.
Because of the athletes being broken into age groups in five-year increments, Franse was bunched with a 75 to 79-year-old group, making her one of the youngest in her segment. She also has younger partners for both tennis and table tennis.
For tennis, her partner is 59; while for table tennis, her doubles partner is 72 and her men’s doubles partner is 53.
Although she won’t be able to compete in quite as many events for state, Franse still intends to compete in tennis, table tennis, softball distance, frisbee distance, soccer accuracy, pickleball and basketball free throw, among others.
However, her strongest events are tennis and table tennis.
“I play tennis five or six times a week,” Franse said. “We have a tennis court in our backyard.”
One of her best friends, Fay Smith (pictured right), used to play tennis with her until arthritis stopped that activity.
Now Smith plays as Franse’s table tennis partner.
“(Fay) practices a lot,” Franse said. “She’s better than I am.” Playing together for 20 years, the two women have a chemistry that allowed their playing to take them all the way to nationals three years ago. Although “we did not do very well,” Franse admitted, they got to go to California and compete nonetheless.
Being breast cancer survivors, both Franse and Smith enjoy staying active and healthy with their involvement in the Olympics. Further bonding takes place during competition weekends, which Franse said are strictly for the women, no husbands.
“We women all go together,” she said. “It’s a girl’s day out, that weekend.” And this seems to work out fine for her husband Roy Franse who doesn’t want to be involved anyhow.
He’s old but he doesn’t want to be classified with old people,” Franse said of her husband.
Overall, Franse really enjoys the Senior Olympics, and is looking forward to another year of state competition.
“We have fun and meet a lot of people,” she said.