Winners of the Austin 60 Strong Contest Announced!

Congratulations to the following winners of the Austin 60 Strong contest who were selected by a panel of luminary judges:

Ben Barlin
Toni Bourke
Dave Corna
Kim Cousins
Shelley Friend
Dan Garrett
Mike Gassaway
Lisa Kurek 
Susan Joiner
Susan Mobley
Grace Perez
Miriam Raviv

Special thanks to our celebrity judges

The winners will be featured on the Austin 60 Strong 2019 Calendar, which highlights Central Texas landmarks, events and activities.  The 60 Strong Ambassadors have accomplished unimaginable feats; overcome chronic health conditions; changed lives for those less fortunate; and contributed to society in a meaningful way. The 2019 Calendar will also include health tips for seniors.  Proceeds from calendar sales will benefit Capital City Village, a nonprofit program for aging seniors that allows them to be cared for at home and in their communities. 

Austin 60 Strong” is a celebration of grit and resilience.   Sponsored by Central Texas physician groups -- Austin Regional Clinic (ARC) and Premier Family Physicians who joined together to form Connected Senior Care Advantage -- the new program is designed to keep Central Texas seniors active and help them navigate the complexities of Medicare coverage and other healthcare decisions.

Special thanks to our celebrity judges (pictured left to right) 

Judy Maggio, Editorial Director, News & Public Affairs, KLRU-TV
Mela Sarajane Dailey, Grammy Award-Winning Singer
Sally Hernandez, Morning Anchor, KXAN-TV
John Garrett, Founder/CEO, Community Impact Newspaper
Pam LeBlanc, Adventure and Fitness Writer and Blogger

Ben BarlinBen Barlin

October 11, 1957

When Ben was diagnosed in February 2017 with Stage 3 Colon cancer, he was devastated and knew he had a hard road ahead. His treatment at the Austin Regional Clinic included multiple surgeries and eight months of chemotherapy. With treatment completed he was determined to get his health back. He trained hard in multiple sports he regularly participates in. These include running, long distance hiking and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, in which he has a second-degree black belt. The result, four months after finishing chemotherapy he was standing on the highest point in this hemisphere, 22,841-foot-high Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. A little more about Ben: he is a long- time member of the American Youth Soccer Organization, an all-volunteer organization whose mission is to bring low cost soccer to kids. He loves working with kids and believes that shaping our future adults is the most important contribution an individual can make. Through his current employer, Ben heads an effort to bring more affordable housing and open space to Austin. Ben’s determination to overcome his cancer and the willpower that drove him to the summit are amazing. This and Ben’s generous heart make him an inspiration to all that know him.

Toni BourkeToni Bourke

May 3, 1951

I am one of twelve children, first generation to reside in the United States from Mexico. I was raised in Texas, but my family moved to Michigan, where I attended high school. After graduation, I decided to join the Army and served for twenty-one years. During my years in the military, I traveled throughout Europe and thoroughly enjoyed meeting people from all different walks of life. I met my husband and we have one daughter. After my military retirement, I decided to return to school and obtain a Nursing degree. I totally enjoyed my career as a nurse because I cannot think of a better way to help and encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle. After retiring from my second career, I decided to return to work for a few days and spend my time doing what truly is my passion in nursing, which is teaching. I also volunteer at Sacred Heart Clinic, a clinic that provides medical health services for the uninsured. My goal in life is to maintain an active healthy lifestyle for as long as possible. Since I have a strong family history of diabetes, I am even more committed in maintaining a healthy diet and staying active. I enjoy my daily two-mile walk every morning as it is not only a time to exercise, but also reflection.

Dave CornaDave Corna

August 1,1956

Reverend Dave was in the lumber business for 30 years before entering the seminary late in life. He is ordained in the Methodist church, and while he’s in church on the weekends, he mostly serves as a hospital chaplain. He’s a recovering alcoholic (he quit in 1985), and quit smoking in 2005. He transferred his addiction to food and gained up to 306 pounds. He’s now 185, and lost the first hundred pounds or so just from dieting. He decided he needed to do something for his heart, and took up running. He started slow, but joined Austin Fit, a local running group, and has now completed two marathons. He says he has been running around Lady Bird Lake for the past 9 years, and is training for the upcoming fall marathon season. After he began his hospital work, he learned that over 2/3 of the trauma seen is from people falling, and decided to incorporate flexibility training into his routine. He meets with a trainer once a week to work on conditioning and flexibility, and joined a pickle ball league. He tries to do something active six days per week. He schedules his annual physical in early January of every year with his primary care doctor, Dr. Amy Siegel and has kept up this tradition for almost a decade. He says it’s a great way to start off the New Year. He has two daughters, six granddaughters and, the only boy in the family, his yellow lab. His wife of 40 years is a retired schoolteacher, and they live in Vizcaya in Round Rock. He loves Dr. Siegel and ARC.

Kim CousinsKim Cousins

January 18, 1957

Kim Cousins exemplifies leadership and wellness. This makes her an ideal candidate for the Austin 60 Strong Contest. She began by teaching physical education to junior high students. After eight years in the classroom, she moved into an administrative role where she continued an active lifestyle inside and outside of her work setting during her 33-year career as an educator. She inspires thousands of students, teachers and others to be the best they can be. I affectionately refer to her as a ‘machine’ because of her non-stop ability to push herself physically and to help those around her volunteer with our local school district. She has been active in the community by serving the homeless and others in need. At the age of 61, she happily recounts her annual physical exams where her doctors compare her health to those of patients more than 20 years younger. She maintains this healthy lifestyle by walking, paddle boarding, swimming, participating in Pilates, biking, roller blading and playing tennis. Kim is relentless when it comes to service to others and wellness for herself and those around her. I cannot think of another individual more deserving of this recognition.

Shelley FriendShelley Friend

January 18, 1957

My mother, Shelley Friend is one of the most selfless people I know. She donates her time and money to various organizations that she is passionate about. One organization is Faithworks of Abilene, an organization that provides training to those less fortunate so they can find a job. It’s wonderful to see these people break out of the cycle of destructive behavior and poverty and become self-sustaining citizens of our community. My mom also started The Iron Butterflies Project about one and a half years ago. It is a multi-faceted project created as a weekly forum for people to share stories of struggles and healthcare challenges that have made them better, stronger and more determined people. My mom is always trying to find new ideas to make the group more dynamic and helpful for those who participate. Trevor Noah recently promoted The Iron Butterflies Project during an interview with my mom on The Daily Show this past April in New York City. I do not think she realizes how much she does for all of us in our immediate family, which is one of the many reasons I would love to show her how much we all care. She is kind, sincere, thoughtful and loyal. She has distinguished herself as someone who works hard and guides by her own moral compass. She would make a fabulous Ambassador for your organization and would work tirelessly on any mission you set in front of her. Though she only stands at five feet, one inch, she is powerful and stands out in a crowd. She has participated in a whole food, plant based diet for over 2 years, and has been vegetarian for 35-40 years. Exercise wise—if she’s in Austin she tries to do something every day. At the very least she’ll walk for 30-40 minutes. She has a workout regimen at her gym—yoga, Pilates, and weight- training workouts to help bone density. She has been studying yoga for 25 years. She also travels a lot with her husband for his work, and continues her career as a part-time teacher at Austin Community College. 

Dan GarrettDan Garrett

September 10,1955

I would like to nominate my husband, Dan Garrett, for the Austin 60 Strong contest. Dan is the fittest person I know. He started his running career in 1979 for the health benefits it provided. He ran races formany years and was very competitive, but as the years rolled by he decided to just enjoy running. He still runs five days a week. Dan keeps running logs, and despite having surgery in 1983 to add an artificial joint between his foot and big toe, he has logged over 37,000 miles!

Dan also avidly lifts weights. He added this to his routine in the mid-1980s and has been dedicated to lifting at least three days a week since then. He maintains a low carb diet and has been a resource for many others seeking a healthier lifestyle. Dan has inspired numerous people over the years to start running and lifting.

We have three grown children who are the joy of our lives. All were, and still are athletes and Dan has volunteered as a coach for many years. He is retired now, but has done some selective executive consulting work. He was fortunate in his career to have met a lot of young folks who still contact me frequently for career advice and counseling. Nothing makes him happier than to see those I've been blessed enough to know come to me for guidance, and then to watch them succeed. Relationships will always far outweigh any personal accomplishment he has ever had. His career didn't allow him a lot of time outside of family, running and training, and he had always wanted to write a book. In 2010 his first novel, Daufuskie, was selected as the “Best Mystery for 2010” by the Writers' League of Texas. He is still writing, and is about half way through his second manuscript.

After retiring he volunteered for a few years in a challenged youth program mentoring young boys from economically disadvantaged families. He now volunteers as president of our Homeowners Association, interacting with our residents and the City of Buda on their behalf.

On a routine health check-up this past year it was discovered that he has a heart murmur. You can imagine his surprise after all the years of running! After consultation with a friend, who is a well-respected cardiologist, he continues his workout regimen. Again, he’s never been one to sit on the sidelines! His motto is "if you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room!

Mike GassawayMike Gassaway

August 12, 1949

My dad, Mike Gassaway, is an amazing man and would be perfect for your project. He is 67 years old, has had two complete hip replacements, a total knee replacement and last year had to have his entire colon removed. His ostomy bag hasn’t slowed him down a single step.
Despite these medical setbacks, he continues to go to yoga three times a week and goes to the gym four days a week. He has a group of senior men and women that he helps, encourages, trains and motivates at each location. He volunteers at Valley C Rescue Ranch where he helps with their horse rescues. He also volunteers at the dog rescue, WAGS Hope and Healing. To top it off, he is in such good condition and has such a great attitude about life, that he is still doing stunt work on major movies. Just this year, he did stunts on John Wick 3. He was also Michael Caine’s stunt double in “Dear Dictator,” and did fight stunts in “Kickboxer: Retaliation” with Mike Tyson. He also holds a world land speed record for motorcycles that he set at the Bonneville Salt Flats. One more brag…he is an inductee in the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame, joining the class of 2018. He has done all of this after a great career as an attorney. The way his life is going, there’s no way of telling what he might do next. He can bench press over three hundred pounds and run a mile in under 6 minutes. His favorite saying is, “I love life and it loves me.” He taught me not to quit when I’m tired, but only when I’m done. Thanks for considering him. He is awesome!

Lisa KurekLisa Kurek

February 2, 1957

My wife, Lisa, is a 61-year-old wonder who exemplifies physical, emotional, and spiritual strength. Physically, Lisa is a dedicated member of South Lamar Crossfit devoting 4-5 mornings per week to the demanding exercise regime of Crossfit. As the self-proclaimed “old ladies of SoLa” Lisa and her friend Deborah are an inspiration for the younger members. In addition to the physical workouts, Lisa has embraced the philosophy that diet and sleep are just as important to a healthy lifestyle. Lisa’s emotional strength was tested four years ago when our 23-year-old daughter, Sophia, was killed in a freak accident. The sudden loss of her only daughter and her best friend began a long struggle with ever-present grief. Ultimately Lisa not only survived but somehow uncovered positive aspects in a situation that seemed to have none. She re-focused her energies on the sources of life’s true joys: her son, her family, and sharing herself. In her blog ( Lisa connects with other trauma victims through her “musings of a bereaved mom” tracing her four-year journey of grief and healing. Lisa also volunteers as a facilitator for a group of bereaved parents at the Austin Center for Grief & Loss.

Susan JoinerSusan Joiner

June 3, 1958

Susan Joiner sets the world around her on fire with her energy, enthusiasm and passion for life. She counts each day as a gift. In 2002, at 44, she was diagnosed with Stage II-C ovarian cancer. Susan was fortunate. Prior to receiving eight rounds of chemo, she was given a promise. “A scripture came to mind that was repeated to me by several others: ‘I shall not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord’." To spur her recovery during chemo, she hired a fitness professional who later became her spouse. Now cancer-free for 15 years, she is writing a memoir about her experience. She credits four things for her good health: her faith, her nutritionist (Glen Luepnitz), intense workouts six days a week, and a whole foods diet. “I put on about 10 pounds immediately after chemo,” she says. “I finally settled on the Weight Watchers plan and regular exercise to take off the weight.” Professionally, Susan is a leadership coach for Keller Williams Realty. “We want our leaders to live their best business and personal life,” she says. “It’s an honor to walk with so many on their journey to becoming their best selves.”

Susan MobleySusan Mobley

February 7, 1950

For the Austin 60 Strong contest it’s my honor and a complete no-brainer to nominate my mother and Texas-native, Susan Mobley. My mother was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes when she was 53. This was a genuine surprise for a healthy eater that’s been running around Town Lake since the 1970s. But despite the unavoidable mental and physical challenge of a chronic condition, her grace, grit and general positive energy have only grown. In those ~15 years since, she’s traveled to all seven continents. She’s had at least three personal trainers try to dissuade her from learning to pole vault in her 60s. She’s run marathons around the country and this fall will run the original route in Marathon, Greece. She donates time speaking at new-diabetics support groups, teaching elementary children to drum, and reading with younger children every week at the library. She even bakes cookies for local firemen because she just plain appreciates them putting out all those dang fires. My mother’s accomplishments and generosity inspire because they’re without ulterior motive. She does what she does because it’s her core truth: she’s an inspirational light and an enviably fit woman that I love to see grow stronger every year.

Grace PerezGrace Perez

September 16, 1948

I moved to Austin seven years ago from East Texas after losing my husband to cancer. I chose Austin because I wanted to be close to family. My oldest son, Gary, and his wife and children live here, just a few blocks away. My other son, Joe, lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife and children. Admittedly, it has been difficult to get used to a new home, new community, and most of all trying to reach out to make new friends. However, I enjoy being able to help to care for both sets of grandchildren. In addition, I joined the Society of St. Katharine Drexel, a non-profit charitable service organization. We dedicate ourselves to child and family welfare, regardless of race or creed. I also volunteer as a Meal Manager for Meals on Wheels. In my spare time, I enjoy working in my yard, trying to walk 9-10 miles a day, and I make every effort to eat healthy meals. I think that Dr. Brinkman nominated me for this contest because I strive to stay healthy by making it a priority to stay current on my wellness checks because heart disease and Alzheimer's run in my family.

Miriam RavivMiriam Raviv

July 22, 1950

Miriam Raviv was immediately hooked by the enthusiasm, fun, and positivity that triathlons inspire in participants when she began competing in the mid-1990s. With her 2005 move to Austin, Miriam was thrilled to find races scheduled almost every weekend during the summer months. She quickly developed a regular routine of Masters’ swim workouts three mornings a week, cycling rides and various running/walking groups. She also does strength conditioning and yoga almost daily. She registers for lots of events. She says that signing up for races motivates her to keep training like nothing else does. She loves the energy of competitions, the camaraderie, the encouragement as she's racing, and the people who see her age (68) marked on her calf and tell her that she's an "inspiration." Miriam's philosophy can be summed up simply: sign up, suit up, and show up. Recently, at the age of 68, Miriam has qualified for the ITU World Championships in Denmark taking place on July 12th and for the USAT National Championships in Cleveland on August 11th and will be attending both.  In addition, she raises money for several local and national charities through charity bike rides. She has participated in two 150- mile bike rides and raised money for MS.