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Norwalk Neighbors Notes: Pulling Together

NORWALK, Conn. — It was a balmy, 60-degree afternoon at riverside on Moody’s Lane when I caught up with Jim “Coop” Cooper . Jim is a 25-year veteran of rowing and is a founding member of the Norwalk River Rowing Association. On this afternoon, he was getting the “ergs” (rowing machines with ergometers) ready to move to the Norwalk Senior Center. Not for the seniors, but for the women to use in his indoor rowing class. Jim is both coach and manager of equipment and facilities at the rowing association.

“Anything that rolls, pivots, turns or has electricity will eventually break. That’s where I come in. I love working with my hands, and I’ve been blessed or maybe that’s cursed, with the ability to fix things. And we have lots of equipment here. Racks, rowing machines, safety launches, we’ve got a lot here,” Jim said.

Helping alongside Jim, was Adam Worrell, a student from the Foundation School in Milford. The Foundation School offers students with developmental needs a work study program. Jim said, “Adam is an excellent rower and loves the sport.”

Another rowing enthusiast is Paula Palermo of Romindon Court . She has been rowing at Norwalk River Rowing since 2007. “I love rowing, and Coop has a heart of gold and is a terrific coach. Not only is he a great rowing coach, but he's also a very talented photographer of fine collectors’ knives ( ). He's a lifelong Norwalk resident also well known for his expertise as a motorcycle mechanic. Back in the day, he owned his own shop.” Jim was also a drag racing champion and once held the title of “Rider of the Year.” His fastest speed was a record-breaking 7.47 seconds.

But rowing is his passion now. “I rowed 6 miles this morning. And I’ll row 7 miles tomorrow.” He has garnished many awards in the rowing world, including a gold medal. He has awards both as an athlete and as a coach.

Jim married Susan Sherman , formerly of Westport, 11 years ago. In fact, they celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary on 11-11-11. What did they do to celebrate?  “I took my 8-year-old son Trevor and Susan out for pizza to celebrate. But when Grandmother could come to babysit the next night, that’s when my wife and I formally celebrated at a nice restaurant in Westport.”

At the women’s rowing class at the senior center, Jim coached the rowers to stay in sync. “Drop it down a little, bring it back up, play with it.” To me, they all looked exceptionally fit and pulled together.

I wondered classes were offered for the fat and feeble, thinking of myself and a few of my friends. Jim laughed and said, “It might take them a little longer. But the motion is the same over and over. They’ll get it. One fellow here started rowing at age 60. Never say never.”

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