VERONA — Hubert Conway, pastor, Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, longed to turn 80 years old last August.
His agenda was to join the 80-84 age group for the Senior Olympics, which means he has a better chance to become the national pole vault champion. Healthy through and through, he can still vault and preach with the best of them.
Hubert Conway is a specimen. He takes no medicine. No pills.
“Everything is fine,” he said. “I really think that I probably am as healthy as a lot of 40-year-olds—more than some. Of course I may drop dead before the day’s over.”
A Lawrence County constant who spent 30 years as director of missions, Conway was running one day from a neighbor’s farm back to his house when he wondered, “How many 60-year-old men can still run like this?” That’s when he learned about the Senior Olympics and began competing in meets.
“I just found that I was in better shape than other guys my age,” he said.
He won more than 100 medals, mostly gold, and did a little bit of everything like a decathlete. For the 2013 nationals in Cleveland in July he has qualified in six events—the 100-, 200-, and 400-yard races, high jump, long jump, and pole vault.
He learned how to pole vault in grade school with a sassafras pole and has gone over 9-0 in practice now with a fiberglass pole.
“I don’t have any fear,” he said. “I don’t have much technique. Those guys bend that pole way down and then it flips them up. I’ve never been able to get it to do that for me. Sometimes I can get a little spring in it, but mostly it’s just like I used to use the old aluminum pole in high school.”
Conway said he has always loved sports and physical fitness. Competing in Senior Olympics motivates him to exercise and to stay in shape. He also achieves this by playing on the church volleyball and softball teams.
As for vices, he does not drink alcohol and has smoked only one cigarette in his 80 years. Fried chicken is another story.
“You know we have those church suppers at our church frequently, and the ladies are good cooks and you don’t want to offend them,” he said.
Pole vaulting aside, Conway is a pastor. Pleasant Ridge, a country church that is just inside the Barry County line, runs an average of 150 in Sunday worship. It is an active congregation that has seen an estimated 150 baptisms in the last six years, Conway said.
“They are so good to us,” he said. “I tell them I’m too old to be their pastor but they don’t believe it. The fellowship is just wonderful.”
It all blends together in a story of a man living a very full life.
“I believe one of the secrets to growing old in good health is to maintain a happy spirit, a positive outlook,” he said. “I think it’s good for your general health. I try to do that. And then to have a very good, supportive wife.”
He and his wife, Charlotte, have been married 60 years. Their extended family is quite large with 14 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
“I was gone for five years as a traveling evangelist, averaged 40 weeks a year, and she (Charlotte) was an excellent mother to the children, and our children have all grown up to serve the Lord and be faithful in the Lord’s work,” Conway said. “Charlotte has to get the credit for that.”