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We have news from Down Under of Arnie Delaite, who now lives in Kiama, Australia. He recently took home six gold medals from the Australian Masters Athletic Championships in Perth.
Arnie excelled in track and field at UMaine, where his shot put record stood for more than 50 years. According to a story in the Kiama Independent newspaper (picked up in the Brunswick Times Record, Arnie’s hometown paper), he wondered, after a 53-year hiatus, if he still had what it takes to compete.
Apparently, he did. With only about three weeks to practice, he won six events in the age 75-79 category, including the pentathlon, javelin, discus, shot put, hammer, and heavy weight throw.
Curious to learn how he wound up in Australia, I “interviewed” Arnie via email.
After college, Arnie served in Korea, where he and a friend extended their tour and opted for an Asian discharge. They bought motorcycles in Tokyo and spent three months touring Japan. In Osaka, they joined a cruise to Brisbane, Australia.
“The passengers were mostly young Australians,” Arnie wrote. “By the time we departed the ship, we had invitations to most of the major cities in Australia!” They spent Christmas on a large cattle station; further adventures involved “snakes, goannas, and crocodiles” during three months touring Australia and Tasmania, all by motorcycle.
A couple of drinks in a Sydney pub serendipitously got them headed back to America on a French freighter bound for Panama. To save money, Arnie and his friend chose steerage, even though steerage passengers were restricted to a section at the back of the ship.
“However, musicians got together and played every night, so everyone on the ship knew the place to be was in the steerage section,” Arnie wrote. “What an amazing selection of characters from all over the world! A lovesick flamenco guitarist returning to Spain, a one-legged Dutchman cycling around the world, French from the Pacific islands.”
There also was a young woman from Australia named Kay Tremble in second class, and she and Arnie spent time together on island stops.
In Panama, passengers were “ordered off the ship at the Panama Canal because Panama was in the middle of a revolution,” he wrote.
Arnie and his friend said goodbye to their women friends and boarded a bus headed for Mexico and the U.S. border. Five thousand miles later his odyssey ended in California “after an epic ride on our Suzuki motorbikes that we had bought in Japan a year earlier.”
He and Kay were married in Toronto less than a year after they met, and in February 2019 they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
A physical education and math major, Arnie taught at Morse High School for two years (Kay taught English there the second year) and earned a master’s degree at Springfield College. Then the couple returned to Australia. “Kay and I had been married for two years and I hadn’t met her family,” Arnie wrote.
They taught for two years in Australia, then returned to Maine – this time overland to Nepal, and by bus from there to London. “Yes, you could travel the entire distance overland in those days, including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey,” he wrote.
Back in Maine, “I managed to get a job as vice principal at Rockland High School,” Arnie wrote, “but I found that my heart was really in Australia by now.” He and Kay taught in the Australian school system for more than 20 years, “and this is now our home,” he wrote. They built their own house overlooking beaches and the ocean in the seaside village of Kiama.
Arnie and Kay have a son Andre, 35, in Shanghai, and a daughter Danielle, 31, in Los Angeles. Both share their parents’ love of travel. Regularly in contact with old friends and classmates in Maine, Arnie says he still loves coming back here in the summer.
In other news, Nancy Troland suggests women classmates hold a mini-reunion, perhaps in Portland. Anyone interested, please email me; the Alumni Association and I will take it from there.
Until next time.
Following are excerpts from the Kiama Independent story about Arnie Delate, who decided to celebrate his 75th birthday this year by entering the Australian Masters Athletic Championships:
“Flying to Perth, I started to ask myself why I would actually do something like this after 53 years,” Arnie said. “I had a little over three weeks to get ready for five totally different events. I didn’t have any implements to train with, so I ordered a javelin, a shot put, a discus and a hammer on the Internet. Having competed earlier in the winter weight throws in Wollongong without any practice, I knew I had to improve my earlier effort.”
In the first day of the Masters competition, Arnie won two gold medals in the hammer throw and shot put.
“The next morning I woke up to a rush of emails from local golf mates with congrats and words of encouragement,” he said. “Following the javelin and the discus, I had two more gold medals and, much to my surprise, things were going much better than I had anticipated.”
The next day, Arnie competed in the pentathlon. “In three hours we had to compete in five events with only three throws in each event,” he said.
“All events went well except the javelin. Trying too hard the previous day, I threw my shoulder out. I didn’t take a warm-up throw and just took one throw in the event ― far below my best.”
However, he had more than enough points in the overall competition to win gold.
On the last day, Arnie said he managed “one good throw with one turn to win the final gold.”
“The flight home was a relaxed pleasure,” he said. “It was a great feeling having competed and done well. It was great fun competing in a sport that I enjoyed so much in my younger days.”
In preparation for the national event, Arnie practiced for three hours several times a week over a three-week period at a local sports complex. His son and daughter enjoyed some training as well. “They were a great help in my training before the national titles,” he said.
“I also did some weight training at home for three days a week,” he said. “During some free time I would practice turns with the hammer, discus, and shot put in the garage.”
After playing three sports at Brunswick (Maine) High School, Arnie decided to play football in his first year at the University of Maine, but gave up basketball to join the indoor track team. “I found a home there and broke the university record my freshman year,” he said. “I continued to improve that record over the next four years.
“My second year … I broke the university record in the javelin and broke that record again the next year,” he said. “I threw my arm out in the last meet of the year and couldn’t throw the javelin my senior year. I threw the hammer and weight my senior year, but with less success than the other events.”