92-year-old goes for the gold.
Frank Cavale added to his 54 medals in the Ormond Beach Senior Games on Oct. 25, picking up four medals in the dance competition. That’s a lot of medals, but especially notable is that he is still collecting them at the age of 92, with the help of his dance partner, Ethel Yardley, who is 90.
“We’re the oldest couple here,” Yardley said at the competition in the Senior Center ballroom.
Cavale and Yardley won first place in cha and cha and rumba, and second place in the foxtrot. Cavale also won second place with another partner, Madeline Schneider, in the waltz.
Schneider is just a kid in her 80s, Cavale said.
He won most of his previous medals in a variety of events, including track and field, softball throw, etc., when he was in his 60s and 70s. Now 92, he’s limiting himself to the four dances.
“If they had more than four I’d dance in those too,” he said.
Cavale and the two ladies all dance each Wednesday at the Senior Center, where Cavale said they meet friends and have a great time.
Cavale spent eight years in the Navy and 32 years in the Merchant Marine. After retiring, he said his wife wanted to go on cruises.
“I said, ‘I spent my whole life sailing and you want me to go on a cruise?’”
But, he found that being a passenger was a lot different than being in the crew and enjoyed it immensely.
He said people advised them to take individual lessons. They got so good they were giving exhibitions on the cruise ships.
“We had a hell of a time,” he said.
His wife, Eve, died four years ago.
“This year would be our 50th wedding anniversary,” he said.
One of the friends the Cavales made while learning to dance was Yardley, who they met in the 1990s at a dance studio.
Yardley said her husband died 36 years ago, and she decided to learn to dance and start volunteering at Florida Hospital ”instead of going to a psychologist.” She still volunteers at the hospital today.
She said when a spouse dies, people can stop doing everything or continue to enjoy life.
“Life is not a rehearsal,” she said. “This is the real thing.”
She said dance helps her in every aspect of life.
“It’s the best exercise you can have,” she said.
‘All Italians like to dance’
Schneider, 85, learned to dance at the age of four where she grew up on the East Side in New York.
“I’m Italian,” she said. “All Italians like to dance.”
She said her husband of 50 years, who went from private to captain in his Marine Corps career, died in 1997.
“He said don’t stop doing what you like to do,” she said. “Keep dancing.”
Curling her arm and showing a bulging bicep, she said she stays fit by taking care of her own lawn and enjoying life.
“When God calls I’m going to go kicking and screaming,” she said.
Active in four wars
Cavale looks back on his life on the seas with fondness.
“I enjoyed travel, the ports, shore leave,” he said. “The fun we used to have.”
In World War II, he was a radio operator on a sea-going tugboat, the USS Chowanoc, known as the “terrible tug,” after shooting down five planes.
The tug’s jobs included towing landing craft off beaches.
Cavale participated in four wars with the Navy and then the Merchant Marine, the last being Desert Storm, where he helped deliver munitions to Saudi Arabia. He had retired in 1980, and in 1985 got a letter from the Merchant Marine asking him to return for a stint because they were short-handed.
“I thought it would be a few months but it turned into five years,” he said.
It turned out he enjoyed being at sea again, but he said “they retired him,” in 1990 after his Desert Storm involvement.
“But I got to spend more time with my wife,” he said.
The Ormond Beach Senior Games, for those age 50 and over, run through Oct. 31. Information is available on the city website, ormondbeach.org.