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Bay Times and Record Observer: Franchot honors Sr. Olympian Dashiell

STEVENSVILLE — Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot stopped by the Kent Island Elks, Lodge 2576, in Stevensville, on Tuesday, Sept. 26, to honor Senior Olympian Wally Dashiell, who will celebrate her 94th birthday later this month — on Oct. 31, Halloween! The honor came from Dashiell’s successes competing at the National Senior Olympics, held in Brimingham, Alabama, in June.

Dashiell competed in four field events there, the javelin and shot put, winning silver medals, and in discus and hammer throw, where she took gold. In Birmingham, she broke her own national record in the hammer throw. In August, she traveled to the Maryland Senior Games and broke her own national record in the hammer throw again.

Franchot presented Dashiell with a proclamation at the Elks lodge, congratulating her on continuing to strive for excellence in her mid-90s. She has competed in the National Sr. Olympics since it was first created in the U.S. in the early 1980s. The national games are not held every year, but every other year in a different location somewhere in the U.S.

She has been to Lousiana several times, Orlando, Florida; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky, Southern California, and several other places to compete at national games.

Due to knee replacement surgery in 2013, and hip replacement surgery in 2015, Dashiell missed the national games held in Houston, Texas, and St. Paul, Minnesota. From 2015 through 2016, she worked to get back in shape to be able to go to Birmingham.

Under doctor’s orders, she had to give up running and jumping competitions.

“My doctor told me this knee and hip he gave me have to last,” she said. “He told me if I break either of them, he’s not going to do surgery on me again. He told me he was crazy to have operated on me at 91 for the hip. I was in so much pain, I told him I’d rather be dead than go on living with the pain!”

So, Dashiell is limited to field events now using her arms only.

“I don’t go to the Olympics to be a spectator,” she said.

Since she was a little girl growing up in her native Germany before World War II, she’s always had a physically active life. In her youth she developed a passion for ballet. After the war, she married soldier George Dashiell, originally from the Eastern Shore city of Cambridge, where Wally opened a ballet dance studio. The couple lived in Cambridge near his family, but decided to move to Stevensville, also moving the dance studio. Wally taught dance for 65 years before retiring five years ago. George, who died a decade ago from a heart attack, often joked that “She reminds me of the Energizer bunny!”

Franchot praised Dashiell for being such a great example for everyone for her “unbelievable success at the National Senior Olympics!”

He also complimented her work as a dance instructor for so many years.

“She taught discipline, courtesy and values,” he added.

Franchot presented her with one of his coins he gives to “Marylanders Who Make a Difference.” Dashiell wants to have a small hole drilled at the top of the coin so she can wear it as a pendant.

Franchot asked her, “What’s your secret, how do you keep doing this?”

She replied, “I just do it!” She admitted that she has a small exercise chair in her house that helps her strengthen her arms. Other than that, she practices in her back yard.

Franchot also complimented Dashiell for being an ambassador for the Senior Olympics.

Dashiell said, “I’ve always tried to encourage other seniors to join the Senior Olympics, but most of the time they respond with ‘I can’t do it, I ache all over!’ Well, I ache all over too, but I do it.”

KI Elks Exalted Ruler Angela Meyer said, “Mrs. Dashiell is so inspirational.”

The KI Elks sponsored Dashiell, paying for her expenses to go to this year’s Olympics. They were able to do it through the state Elks 501(c)3 organization, paying her travel costs, lodging and competitive entry fees, not giving her the money directly, which is against 501(c)3 rules.

George and Wally Dashiell were among the founders of the KI Elks, Lodge 2576, in Stevensville, in the early 1980s. The lodge has become one of the most successful charitable organizations on all of the Eastern Shore. In the past decade, the lodge has given more than $1 million back to local 501(c)3 charities, children’s organizations such as Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, 4-H, and especially support for veterans rehabilitation organizations, like Truck’n’ 4 Troops.

Others who were present providing congratulations included community liaisons, Denise Lovelady from Congressman Andy Harris’ office, Melissa Kelly of Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s office, and Kimberly Kratovil of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin’s office.

State Senator Steve Hershey had mailed a congratulatory letter as did Harris. Cardin and Van Hollen also sent citations of praise.

Sr. Olympics start for people when they turn 50. Age group competitions for Sr. Olympics are held in five-year increments.

Dashiell said, “The next national games will be in 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If I’m able to compete, I’ll be moving up to the next age group — 95 to 99 year olds!”

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