En garde! 75-year-old foils younger foes again and again | TheUnion.com

En garde! 75-year-old foils younger foes again and again

Eileen Joyce
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Keith Hurrell is a fencing instructor with a few big scars on his 75-year-old body.

But not from swordplay.

The scars were left by a sextuple heart bypass operation the Nevada County man underwent in July.

The operation and a subsequent surgery to remove fluid from one lung slowed him some.

But now, Hurrell helps teach fencing Monday nights at Bitney Springs Charter High School.

With his English accent, white beard and kindly manner, Hurrell brought to mind Obi-Wan Kenobi as he recently instructed a small class of students learning to use the saber, a heavy fencing sword.

“I just do it because I enjoy it. I just want to pass on as much technique as I can before I pass on,” he explained.

Hurrell and his wife, Lynne, took up fencing in 1958 in West Los Angeles, studying under Italian fencing master Aldo Nadi, a world fencing champion for several years, Hurrell said.

In 1963, the Hurrells moved to Thousand Oaks where, in 1978, they studied under Dutch fencing master Duris DeJong.

Hurrell said that on his first visit to DeJong’s class, the Dutchman had Hurrell fight all his top fencers and was very upset when none of them could beat him.

Even at age 75 Hurrell is a formidable opponent, said Rob Woodhall, a Nevada City chiropractor who founded the fencing class that meets at the school.

“He can usually beat me. It’s embarrassing,” said the much younger Woodhall. “If he had more staying power, nobody could beat him in the class.”

Lynn Hurrell is no slouch either, Woodhall said.

The Hurrells, who have lived in Nevada County since 1987, have stayed fit and physically active throughout their 47-year marriage.

Other activities they’ve pursued include camping, backpacking, running, downhill and cross-country skiing, mountaineering and dog-sledding, a sport they took up in 1971 and pursued for a decade.

In light of his lifelong athleticism, Keith Hurrell is somewhat mystified by his heart problems.

But he credits a quick recovery to walking five miles three times a week and lifting weights.

The Hurrells aren’t the only seniors at the Monday night fencing class. One regular fencer is 76 years old and another man is “a youngster … only 65,” Keith Hurrell said.

Lynn Hurrell thinks any senior could learn fencing – “if they’re at all athletic.”

Fencing classes

To sign up for swordplay: The spring fencing class at Bitney Springs Charter High School runs from April 22 to July 1. Cost is $50. For information or to register, call Rob Woodhall at home at 432-1750 or at work at 265-2220. All ages are welcome.

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