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Villa Park native, 100, helps business dance to 20 years

Villa Park centenarian helps business reach 20-year milestone

Published: Monday, July 28, 2014 5:14 a.m. CDT
(Erica Benson -
Villa Park native Eleanor Olson, 100, (right) participates Tuesday, along with Florence Fass (left) and Bernice Behnke, during Heart & Sole Fitness' 20-year celebration at Lexington Square in Lombard.
(Erica Benson -
Darlene Galgan, owner of Heart & Sole Fitness, leads a demonstration Tuesday during her business' 20-year celebration at Lexington Square in Lombard.
Florence Fass, 94, of Lexington Square participates during Heart & Sole Fitness' 20-year celebration at Lexington Square in Lombard. Erica
Darlene Galgan leads the Heart & Sole Fitness class Tuesday at Lexington Square in Lombard. Darlene is celebrating her 20th year teaching the class.

Exercising is part of a six-day-a-week regimen for 100-year-old Eleanor Olson.

Just not on Sunday because “that’s a day of rest,” said Olson, who lived in Villa Park before moving to Lexington Square in Lombard 25 years ago.

“I just need the discipline of doing exercises.”

If Olson has the discipline, then Darlene Galgan’s got the moves.

The two met 20 years ago when Galgan started teaching dance exercise classes for the residents at Lexington.

Galgan’s Heart & Sole Fitness celebrated its 20-year anniversary at Lexington with a party Tuesday.

“I’m kind of humbled because everyone seems to enjoy the program,” Galgan said of reaching the two-decade milestone. “And I’m anticipating it will continue.”

So are the residents.

“Don’t take this away from us,” 94-year-old Florence Fass said when asked if she plans to continue participating in the classes.

Fass was honored Tuesday for 15 years of exercising with Heart & Sole Fitness.

Three days a week, Fass attends classes, including the 45-minute dance exercise sessions Galgan teaches on Mondays and Fridays.

Heart & Sole Fitness has grown from its roots in dance exercise to also offer tai chi, water aerobics, yoga and more. Galgan now has a team of instructors to help provide a variety of classes every day at Lexington.

Galgan, a Glen Ellyn resident who recently turned 65, began her career as a physical education teacher, but back pain and the subsequent surgery altered her career path. She eventually went back to school at College of DuPage to upgrade her health credentials.

Her physical limitations, combined with her education and dance background, inspired Galgan to create the low-impact dance exercises for seniors.

It’s a good thing Galgan came along when she did because Olson said once you get past 75, you can’t do kickboxing.

“Once I tried it, but I didn’t like it,” the 100-year-old said of kickboxing.

Residents like Olson, who celebrated her centennial birthday in November, provide inspiration for Galgan.

“I just admire her so much,” Galgan said of Olson. “I think she’s a wonderful role-model for everybody, no matter what the age.”

Popular music from an era past fills the basement lobby at Lexington for all of Heart & Sole’s nonpool classes. Galgan uses music as a motivational tool. There’s even a mission statement residents sing with words like, “We go the extra mile … We do it with a smile.”

“They’re not just throwing their arms out there – they’re exercising with heart and soul. It puts meaning into it,” said Galgan, who noted the importance of the social interaction.

Bernice Behnke, 98, also received her 15-year corsage at Tuesday’s event. She shakes a leg in the dance classes on Mondays and Fridays and relaxes with tai chi on Thursdays.

“I’d be lost if it wasn’t for this,” said Behnke, who added she and Galgan hit it off because their birthdays are on the same day.

As for results, Fass says they speak for themselves.

“Well look it, we haven’t put on a pound,” the 94-year-old said with a laugh.

– – – –

Know more

What: Heart & Sole Fitness Inc.

Contact: Darlene Galgan, owners/director, at 630-858-3916 or

Classes: Heart & Sole Fitness offers classes throughout the area, including at Lexington in Lombard and Elmhurst, Beacon Hill in Lombard, and Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

Fun fact: As a physical education teacher and coach, Darlene Galgan was pregnant with her first child when she led the Addison Trail High School girls gymnastics team to the 1977-78 state title.

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