Laguna Beach man celebrates 80th birthday with physical fitness feat

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For his 80th birthday on April 20, Kevin Walsh completed 50 pull-ups ad 100 push-ups with the encouragement of Art of Fitness owners Fernanda Rocha, left, and Marian Keegan, right. Photo Courtesy Art of Fitness

By Barbara McMurray, Special to the Independent

To mark his 80th birthday, Kevin Walsh had an idea different from most new octogenarians. No party, no cake, no bucket-list trip with his wife of 52 years, Tomi.

Walsh’s birthday wish was to do 50 pull-ups and 100 push-ups in five minutes or less.

“I saw it on YouTube,” he said. “This five-minute challenge was being done by a bunch of young guys in New York in their twenties who were well-built and in excellent condition. I thought it would be kind of cool if I could work my way up to doing that.”

A former U.S. Marine Corps captain and Vietnam War veteran, Walsh was a runner who lettered in track at the University of Notre Dame. He took up boxing, offered in 1962 at the then all-male university, as a winter intramural sport at the school.

After a career in sales and marketing, Walsh retired in 2009. He worked out at gyms for more than 30 years and was a runner until age 62, when his doctor told him to find a new sport that would not take such a toll on his hips and back. Walsh had both hips replaced by orthopedic surgeon and Laguna resident Dr. Jamie Caillouette. He asked the surgeon whether a return to boxing was acceptable. Caillouette replied, “Have a ball. Bring me back a trophy.”

Which Walsh did.

He laced on boxing gloves, attacking the sport with his trademark enthusiasm. Ten years ago, Walsh won his first boxing match at the Ringside Masters World Championships in Kansas City, Mo., a few weeks before his 70th birthday. He went three rounds in a match with the reigning champ, a 73-year-old Texan, and won his division. But subsequent losses led him to conclude that his boxing career had reached its end, so he joined the local gym, Art of Fitness.

He has spent more than two hours a day there for the last eight years, six days a week. The past year at the gym has been dedicated to ramping up to achieve his April 20 birthday accomplishment.

He was encouraged to complete the YouTube birthday challenge by Art of Fitness owners Marian Keegan and Fernanda Rocha, whose staff videotaped the feat. Rather than taking a full five minutes, Walsh completed the feat in 3:58.

His wife Tomi was there cheering him on. “She has been very supportive. She recognizes how important fitness is to me. She also stays in shape.” The pair regularly walk the fire road between Top of the World and their Arch Beach Heights neighborhood.

“I feel like I’m 20. I know I don’t look it,” Walsh laughed. “I have way more energy. I certainly don’t have that much natural ability. But anybody at any age can get in better physical condition. It takes a little determination. It makes for a much better quality of life if you’re in shape.”

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  1. Kevin radiates positivity and encouragement. I always felt better after encountering him at Art of Fitness. Go Irish, Kevin!

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