LUMBERTON — It’s never too late to get into shape.
Just ask Rose Faulk, who at 75 years old hits the gym with her 94-year-old mother, Alice Pravatt.
“I love to exercise,” Pravatt said, sitting back on the sofa, her white hair neatly combed on her head. “It gives me more energy and makes me feel better… . Life would be dull without exercise.”
The mother and daughter sit in Pravatt’s living room on West 20th Street surrounded by images of children and grandchildren that make up the pages of Pravatt’s long life.
“One of her grandchildren lived here… and heard a loud knock in the morning and thought she had fallen,” Faulk said. “Of course when he found her, she was just working out.”
Pravatt removes a pillow from the seat of a stationary bike and demonstrates. She does one repetition and then decides that it satisfies her, so she continues a few more, bending with agility and ease.
Apart from a slight hearing problem, nothing about Pravatt’s appearance or demeanor hints that she will turn 95 a week from today. Those are the rewards of working out at the Southeastern Lifestyle Fitness Center, a routine that began at the young age of 70.
“She has a certain machine that she uses and when it’s about time for her to come to that, if somebody starts to get on it, the people will say, no you can’t get on that machine, that’s granny’s and she’ll be here any minute,” Faulk said.
Born two miles east of Lumberton, on the Bladenboro Highway, Pravatt discovered the benefits of physical activity at Warwick’s Mill Pond, which was owned by her father. She remembers corn ground for corn meal and learning how to swim in the nearby pond at age 9.
“I also loved to paddle a boat. I just liked to get away,” she said, throwing up her hands.
Faulk says her mother loves the water, citing a time her husband of 55 years, Hubert Faulk — who also works out with the ladies — pulled her on water skis.
“She was 80,” Faulk said, revealing no hint of surprise. “And she was good.”
Pravatt, who has taught all of her grandchildren how to float, laughs at the image of herself on water skis, and it’s clear that her attitude is just as healthy as her lifestyle.
Out of Europe, Norway and Hawaii, Pravatt says Hawaii was her favorite place to visit because, “There was so much water. You could just swim.”
The physical fitness that Pravatt says improved her life, might have also saved it.
“A dog attacked me right at the end of my walk, a pit bull,” she said as she rolled back her sleeves to reveal scars.
“If she had not exercised, it would have killed her,” Faulk said. “But she was able to hold the dog off until a neighbor came over and beat it away. She had 50 bites on her arms and legs.”
“It didn’t get my neck though,” Pravatt said.
The valedictorian of her graduating class at Allenton High School. Pravatt worked as a secretary for an oil company until she was 82. As one of the first and oldest members of Godwin Heights Baptist Church, she calls her years spent as a Sunday School teacher among her proudest.
“We were a close-knit group and it was just nice to be able to share the message of the Bible with those girls,” she said.
Pravatt finds inspiration in conversation, relishing time on the treadmill spent talking to others as they exercise at the center.
“Getting with other people and talking while you’re exercising, meeting new people, it’s nice,” she said.
Citing exercise and good eating habits as the reason behind her health, she uses a good book to exercise her mind.
“I’m reading about the life of Bill Clinton,” she said.
Of the nation’s 42nd president, she said that “he was OK,” and paused to think.
“He just made that one mistake, which was terrible,” she said, her frown forming into a mischievous smile, “but I haven’t gotten to that part in the book yet.”