Edmonds’ Jerry Karnofski: pushing 96 and still pumping iron

Jerry Karnofski grimaces as he pushes out an extra rep on the triceps machine.

He’s a regular at Edmonds’ Harbor Square Athletic Club, where Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings find him in the equipment room getting in his regular routine of resistance training.  He’s not the kind of guy who makes a big splash at the club – he just sticks with his program and does his workout, one of the many locals who use the club as part of their lifestyle – and unless you’re acquainted you might not even notice him.

But last week he did come to the attention of Club Membership Director Greg Boland.

“I was looking over our membership records, came across his page, and noticed his birthdate,” Boland explained. “At first I thought it must be a mistake – our records have him born in 1925. So when he next checked into the gym I walked around till I found him, and sure enough – not only was he born in 1925, but he was about to celebrate his 96th birthday this coming weekend!”

Harbor Square Athletic Club Membership Director Greg Boland pauses for a photo with club member Jerry Karnofski, who turns 96 years old this weekend.

Jerry’s looks defy his chronological age – he gives the appearance of a man at least 20 years younger as he walks from machine to machine, adds weight, adjusts the seat height and throw, and often grimaces as he puts out the extra effort to get in that final set of reps.

For Jerry, it’s a matter of consistency – getting a routine and sticking to it, even on the days when you’d rather not.

“I’ve been coming to Harbor Square for six years now,” he explains. “But I’ve been active all my life. I just don’t feel comfortable not moving.”

A lifetime Washingtonian, Jerry grew up in Longview, moved to Bellingham for a while, and in 1950 ended up in Edmonds where he spent 25 years as a teacher, vice principal and athletic coach for the Edmonds School District, moving from assignments at the old Edmonds High School, Lynnwood High School, Meadowdale and Mountlake Terrace.  After retiring from the Edmonds School District, he put in some years at Archbishop Murphy Catholic High School (formerly Holy Cross) in Everett.

“Part of what made working for the school district so great was that I always had easy access to a gym,” he said. “I just got in the habit of regular workouts, weights, equipment, running etc. I had to quit running at 84 – I just kept pulling my hamstring – so these days I concentrate on resistance training.”

A good resistance workout means working opposing muscle groups, so Jerry’s next step after the triceps machine calls for working the biceps on the curling machine.

During World War II he ended up at the Arlington, Virginia Army Base where he trained as a B-24 tail gunner. But just before he was due to ship out to Germany, a twist of fate – and yes, it involved athletics – changed his life.

“I was getting prepared to ship out when I went by the gym at Arlington for a workout,” he explained. “There was a guy there throwing a ball, and he asked me if I wanted to play catch with him.

“‘Sure,’ I said.

“We threw the ball around for while, and I guess he liked what he saw.”

Turns out the person he met was part of the Boston Red Sox association, who had been drafted into the military along with some other baseball pros, and was looking to organize a team to play for the Arlington base.

“So instead of going to Germany I ended up playing baseball for six months at Arlington as part of the military base team,” he laughed.

Workout done, Jerry Karnofski flashes a big smile on his way down the stairs.

This weekend’s birthday celebration calls for a trip to LaConner with his two daughters (ages 71 and 67) and son (age 65). They all live in Plain, Wash. (just up the road from Leavenworth), and they’re making the trek over the pass to help Jerry celebrate his big day.

So what’s his secret for a long, active life?

“Be involved in something,” he explained. “Get a routine and stick to it. Sometimes you have to force yourself to get moving and keep the routine going. I have days like that too, but once I’m here at the gym I’m always glad I came. And I’ve never once left here feeling worse than when I came in.”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

    1. I snapped him a football and he ran a play at practice of our football team LHS 1978. Great to see he’s still getting after it.

  1. My husband knew Jerry well this is a great article of the inspirational man he is, that we all can learn from

  2. Mr. Karnofski it has been a long time. Great story and glad to see you are doing well! You were our principal at Meadowdale and our family knew most of your kids as well. What a great person and principal! Take care.

  3. Mr. Karnofski was one of the two vice principals at Edmonds High School in 1959 when I graduated. He was such a nice person then — and it looks like he still is!! HAPPY 96TH BIRTHDAY!!

  4. Kudos to Jerry Karnofski, stalwart District 15 educator for many years and in 1957 my basketball coach at the old Edmonds High School at 4th and Daley. It’s wonderful to see him remaining active late in a long life, as did his colleagues Rich Rowe, Frank Cunningham, and Bill Phillips.

  5. Congratulations Jerry.
    I have known you (and Marilee) for a long from Holy Rosary Church, I have not seen you in 18 months, you look fantastic. Congratulations on your birthday. Peace and Joy, Cirila Potter

  6. Hopefully his gym isn’t forced to close for his own safety. Don’t stop Jerry. Proud of you sir.

  7. Jerry good to see you are doing well. You are a special inspiration to all of us. Hope to see you at the Meadowdale HS 1970 reunion. Bill Baugh class of 70 basketball and baseball.

  8. As EHS (Edmonds High School) Class of ’57 Bruce Evans noted (8/13/21), Jerry Karnofski is a “stalwart educator”, coach and mentor to so many of us and has attended some of our class reunions and picnics. As one of my football coaches with Rich Rowe , Stew Smith and others I have great memories of those days. Thanks Coach and Happy Birthday and hope to see you in the Club. And thanks My Edmonds News and Harbor Square Athletic Club for picking up on this inspirational story.

  9. I was in the 3rd graduating class at the new Meadowdale HS where Jerry was first the Assistant and the Principal. His daughter Nancy was in my class and was part of my group of friends. I had a great experience at MHS and feel grateful to this day for the teachers, administrators, and students that helped shape my life. My wife also went to MHS and our love of learning has clearly rubbed off on my four children (including, of course, my rather well-known eldest son and namesake. Thanks for everything, Mr. Karnofski and keep pumping!

  10. Jerry. Congratulations on your 96 birthday. I have tried to model my work and life after you. You have been a great role model for me and many others. I was not surprised at all to see your picture in a gym. I remember 50 years ago playing basketball against you. You were always a competitor. Good luck to you

  11. What a nice surprise to see your picture at Harbour Square. Think of u & Marilee often. How I miss her. Rich passed away last December. Carol Brown

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