As an avid runner, 78-year-old Inez jogged a couple miles every-other day until three months ago. The Michigan humidity mixed with uneven ground made Inez trip and fall. With damage to her leg, she is still recovering and using a walker.
Inez has always been athletic. In high school, she played basketball, volleyball, and ran track. But, she could participate only in gym class. Back then, she was not allowed to be on an organized sports team.
“I remember being angry,” Inez said. “I was tall and good at sports, but I wasn’t allowed to play on a sports team because I was a woman. There was nothing for women at my high school.”
She tried every sport in gym class, including high jumps, and she won every time. But outside of the class, there wasn’t a team for her to join. So, she would compete against friends, her brother, and his male friends.
“I would usually win against the boys,” Inez said. “One time, I got a prize: a man’s watch. If we went on field trips to see sports, it would be to see a men’s sports team. Everything seemed to be dominated by men.”
This didn’t stop Inez from exercising daily and playing sports. In fact, up until Inez had her fall, she was jogging three or four times per week. Even with physical therapy several times per week, Inez still stays connected to her community through her church.
“I haven’t been able to go to church since my accident, but people from church come and bring me the sacrament or will stop by and visit and take me out for ice cream,” Inez said. “The church is like my family; faith is a huge part of my life.”
Inez spent most of her life going to a Baptist church, but she never became a member. She was never completely sure her beliefs aligned with theirs. So, in her mid-50s, she decided to step out and explore other faiths.
Inez found her home in the Mormon faith. Her brother had been a devout Mormon for years and persuaded Inez to try it out. After careful consideration over three years, she chose to convert. Twenty years later, she still attends the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Church in Ypsilanti.
Not only does faith keep Inez hopeful about her recovery, but her church is the reason she decided to help others, spending 10 years as a foster parent.
“My church had a presentation about foster care years ago, and I remember thinking, Wait I could do that – I can help. I’m good at taking care of people,” Inez said. “It wasn’t always easy, but I managed. I learned how to handle it.”
Inez is used to working hard, as she grew up on a 15-acre farm in Milan, Mich. She would wake up early every morning to help take care of the animals as well as the household. Perhaps it was this work ethic Inez learned on the farm that inspired her to persevere at sports and physical fitness as well.
Once she has made a full recovery and her leg has healed, Inez plans to be exercising daily again. For now, she’ll be watching other women participate in sports – something Inez never got the chance to do.
“Just the other day I saw a women’s basketball game on T.V., and it made me so happy,” Inez said. “Women playing sports—imagine that! Well, it’s about darn time!”