Looking above the wire rims of his glasses, Paul Meany makes eye contact with a man who has just come in from the rain holding up his Madison Area YMCA membership card for Paul to scan. A friendly face at the Welcome Center that people look forward to seeing, Paul is always quick with a smile or a joke. “How are you?” asks Paul. “A little wet,” the man replies. “Well, if you weren’t, I’d want to know your secret,” quips Paul. The man breaks into a smile.
Retiring in 2014 after more than 40 years in the insurance claims industry, Paul joined the Y’s staff two years ago. But, Paul has been a regular at the Y, working out three or four times a week ever since his recovery 16 years ago from a heart attack. Following quadruple bypass surgery, Paul had developed pneumonia and a lung infection that landed him in a coma for 27 days and 60 days in the hospital and cardiac rehabilitation center. He has a defibrillator implanted in his chest.
It was during rehab that Paul met Dolores Smith, a nurse in the cardiac unit who encouraged the Florham Park resident to work out at the nearby Madison Area YMCA. Coincidentally, Dolores retired a few years ago and now spends 20 hours a week volunteering at the Y. “Dolores is here to make sure that I’m getting my exercise done!” laughs Paul.
When Paul became a member, he worked with Y personal trainer, Cheryl Bourdon. “She told me two very important things: You’re not trying to be Mr. America and only work with what you are comfortable doing.” Paul says it’s the best advice he ever received regarding his cardiac regimen. He walks two miles at a brisk pace on the treadmill and does circuit training exercises.
Paul understands the Y’s mission and lives its cause. “Paul is very generous,” says Associate Development Director Leigh Anne Soroka. “Everything that we host at the Y, he volunteers for it—whether it’s the 5K, our charity golf event, Healthy Kids Day or pancake breakfasts.” Ms. Soroka notes Paul’s kindness as she recalls many times when Paul bought pizza for the Welcome Center and membership departments.
Telling a story about a woman who used to come to the Y that had challenging health issues, Paul says, “She came with her husband three days a week for classes. It was admirable how hard she worked. We used to have fun and kid around together. I’d tease her about breaking into a sprint with her walker. She knew I was a Met fan so she knit me a bright orange scarf. I wore it all the time at work. When she passed away, her husband told me that she really appreciated the attention that she received.”
“I’ve always appreciated what the Y does,” says Paul sharing that three years ago when his wife was recovering from pancreatic cancer, she joined LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. “She became an active participant in the program and really enjoyed the people she met."
Mrs. Meany passed away shortly after completing the program and that’s when Paul took up his part-time position at the Y. “I enjoy this. Its kept me busy since my wife’s passing. It gives me the opportunity to meet a lot of nice people. It also affords me the opportunity to get my workouts done before or after work. The most rewarding part of this job is getting to know members of the community…and the staff—they’re a lot of fun.”
You can usually find Paul at the Welcome Center on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Not Thursdays—he’s out on the links!