Feeling fit, feeling fine

February 13, 2017

Feeling fit, feeling fine

At 94, rocket scientist Hal Gotoff’s looking active and athletic 

Harold L. “Hal” Gotoff joined the JCC when he was 43 years old, in 1965. Today, at 94 years, Hal’s working-out strong.

A fitness advocate, Hal recalls his earliest days as a member, jogging four miles up and down the Weinberg Park Heights JCC corridor with his buddies, doing push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, squats.

For 15 years at the Weinberg J, Hal served as a low impact aerobics instructor, and in 1995, he was awarded the JCC Man-of the Year for his dedication and leadership.

According to Weinberg JCC Fitness Supervisor Denard Smith, “Hal is an inspiration and testament to anyone who takes fitness seriously.”

Hal’s work out is more focused and more consistent than some people 70 years younger.

“At 94,” says Denard, “Hal’s work out is more focused and more consistent than some people 70 years younger. He’s so encouraging and helps those that may need his guidance, even during the time when he is working out.”

“That’s one of the reasons he had such a great following in the Get Fit, Stay Fit class he taught into his early 90’s!”

For 39 years, Hal worked as a chemical engineer with the Physical Protection Directorate of the Chemical Systems Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

“It was a very serious job,” he says. As Chief of the Test Division, Hal directed the program to characterize the effectiveness of chemical agents in the battlefield. 

“There was a lot of pressure, with 160 people under me and the responsibility for managing millions of dollars of gov’t contracts.”

With an international reputation in chemical/biological defense, Hal served as a U.S. delegate to NATO. He originated numerous technical data exchange agreements with other countries including the Republic of Korea, France, and the State of Israel, and has travelled all over Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, both for work and pleasure.

Born in New York City, Hal grew up in Union City, New Jersey. Physical fitness has always been central to Hal’s life.

“The J has always been a place for me to relax,” he says. “It has helped me release tension.”

 “As you get older, you’ve got to move – you don’t have that spring that previously existed.”

Denard says, “Hal’s a real mensch and a bank of knowledge. I hope I’m lucky enough to make it to my 90’s healthy and still able and interested in working out.”

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