published Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Wiedmer: Lewis clan keeps on competing

Perhaps Theresa Ritchie is still competing in Senior Olympics at the tender age of 76 because she doesn't want her 97-year-old mother, Estel, to show her up.

"Oh, she'll be there," said Ritchie on Wednesday morning. "Mom's going to participate in the softball throw, just like last year."

If there is a First Family of the Chattanooga Senior Games it would have to be the Lewis clan. Estel will have no five children competing in everything from 3-on-3 basketball to softball to ballroom dancing when the Games get under way between May 3-8 at locations throughout the city.

Theresa's the oldest and sister Robert Ann Lewis is the youngest at 63. Between them are brothers Neville (70), Winston (68) and Conrad (65).

"Mom played games with us from the day we were born," said Ritchie. "We lived on Mowbray Mountain, and we didn't have a bathroom in the house until I was 13. We got electricity that same year. But we were always playing games with each other outside."

A total of 421 athletes could be seen competing both outside and inside throughout the city last year. To join in this year's competition, participants must be 50 years or older and either be Tennessee residents or residents of Georgia or Alabama who live within 30 miles of Hamilton County.

Registration forms remain available at Forms must be postmarked by Friday. Anyone wishing further information should call (423) 755-6114 by noon Friday.

"You meet a lot of interesting people," said Conrad Lewis, who's 65. "And it's a great way to stay in shape. I really like the basketball. It's a good workout."

He's also fond of the ballroom dancing.

"I've always liked to dance, but I was too shy," he said. "But I took ballroom lessons and it really helped."

Conrad also wanted to let it be known he's single, just in case that talent might appeal to anyone.

"No, I'm not married," he said. "Feel free to write that. I'm not married."

Theresa Ritchie, who is widowed, remembers one time Estel danced the Charleston in front of her children.

"She did a high leg kick and her shoe flew off and broke a window," Ritchie laughed.

But she also remembered her mom and dad, the late Albert Lewis, cramming all the kids on Mowbray Mountain into their Ford pick-up every Saturday morning and hauling them to some other community to play baseball and softball.

"At the end of the games, my mom would buy all the kids ice cream," said Ritchie. "One of her happiest memories of that time was when those kids surprised her one Saturday by telling her, 'Mrs. Lewis, we're buying you ice cream today.' She's never forgotten that."

Ritchie has never forgotten the athletic skills her parents taught her. She won the 3-point shooting contest at the state level last year, bagging four of 10. Her softball skills have taken her to Arizona, Kentucky and Louisiana for national Senior games. She's played volleyball, coached softball and danced.

But her biggest reason for competing has nothing to do with travel or prizes.

"It keeps you interested in things," she said. "You can do so much more as you get older, stay more active and limber. It keeps you young."

E-mail Mark Wiedmer at

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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