Sonny Durning admits to being a bit of a
fitness freak. Whether it was playing softball as a kid or swimming and biking long distances as he does today, being active has always been a big part of his life.
"From the time that I was a young kid I've always been physically fit,"?Durning said. "I played softball a lot during my youth, I played ping pong at every opportunity and I swam a lot. I remember diving off the Economy River bridge 35 feet or more down into the water. We'd bet each other as to who would dare dive. I suppose in looking back, it was a little dangerous."
Born in Economy in 1935, Durning and his family moved to Wawa, Ont., 165 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie, the same year. Returning to Nova Scotia in 1942 he lived in both Pictou and Economy.
Leaving his native province to seek employment in Ontario in the early 1950s, he worked for a number of years in Hamilton and Toronto. Early job experience included driving a ready-mix cement truck and doing deliveries for Gulf Oil. Later, he went stateside and was employed in Fremont, Calif.
"After working for a number of years for 'Bay Area 4-Star Carpet,' a carpet cleaning business, I went into business for myself. I decided to move back to Nova Scotia in 1992. It was all about coming home."
Settling in on 20 acres of land on Economy Point which borders the Economy River, Durning continued pursuing business goals under Sonny's Carpet Cleaning. These days, most of his clients are in Truro and the surrounding area.
"We were one of the first carpet cleaners in Atlantic Canada to get a dry master rotary cleaner," Durning said.
"We can clean a carpet and have it totally dry in two hours or less. This is important to motels and landlords with rental properties.
"Life has been really enjoyable since I moved back to Nova Scotia in 1992. I live quietly and when not working I enjoy going to old time dances and I exercise every day. When people ask me why, it's because exercise is the fountain of youth. Exercising keeps me young.
"I've always stayed involved in sports and my ambition may surprise people ... but I want to ski the everglades of Wentworth on my 100th birthday."
Besides working regularly with weights, Durning covers a lot of territory on his 27- speed road bike.
"In may, I rode my bicycle from Economy to Parssboro and back. It was about a 50 mile return trip and included a lot of hills," the 73-year-old shared.
Durning drove his bike to Truro from Economy in early August. After touring around Truro for more than an hour he made the trip back home.
"I started biking about four years ago basically to keep in shape for skiing. Besides the help with conditioning, I really get pleasure out of biking. Having said that, skiing is my passion. I became involved with the sport when I was 58 years of age and my enjoyment comes from skiing off trail or what's known as glade skiing. I go for the powder snow and right now Ski Wentworth has the best glade skiing east of Quebec."
Durning said several years back a number of volunteers began thinning the trees off trail and cutting the underbrush for glade skiing. With encouragement from Dave Wilson and Ski Wentworth and thanks to the work of friends Larry Hamilton, Alex Williams, Shane Reid and J.P. Deveau, off trail skiing numbers continue to grow.
"Glade skiing on both sides of the Explosion, Ski Wentworth's steepest and most difficult trail, it's much tougher, it's an obstacle course. You have to contend with trees and everything. Very exciting and very enjoyable," Durning said.
Mention was made of weights in his living room and a chin-up bar in the hall. The evidence is there: standing five-foot-eight and weighing 150 pounds, Durning is truly the picture of good health.
And one could review any number of his life experiences to be further amazed.
During the early 1950s, he swam across the St. Lawrence River and back again near Prescott, Ont. In 1954 while going home to Economy for Christmas, he faced a raging blizzard in New Brunswick that was no cake walk, considering that his transportation was a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
With the word 'no' not seeming to be in Durning's vocabulary, hopefully he will accomplish his goal and ski the everglades of Ski Wentworth on his 100th birthday.
Lyle Carter is a freelance columnist who lives in Brookfield
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