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Eulogizing Jack LaLanne

January 26, 2011 |  2:19 pm

If each generation must have a fitness icon, mine would be Arnold Schwarzenegger (I'm 29). My only memories of Jack LaLanne involve juicers and daytime TV infomercials, so I'm embarrassed to admit that I was a bit surprised by the volume of submissions that landed in the letters@latimes.com inbox written in response to The Times' Jan. 24 obituary.

Typically, letters submitted in response to obituaries are scarce; occasionally, one makes it into the paper. One such letter on LaLanne ran on Tuesday, after which responses continued to arrive. Below are a selection of those submissions, most of which are from readers who credit LaLanne for improving their fitness.

Click on the jump to read the letters, which have been edited only for spelling and grammar.

-- Paul Thornton

Photo credit: Associated Press

First, the eulogies:

My mentor, trainer and inspiration Jack LaLanne has passed. As a little boy of 5, I would watch cartoons on TV and dress for school while my mother was cooking breakfast. One day I stumbled upon this strange man jumping around on TV. He had muscles, a one-piece suit and crazy energy! Though I was still just learning to read, write and dress myself, for some weird reason I understood what this man on TV was trying to convey to his television audience. Needless to say, that "strange" man became my favorite morning show. It didn't take long for my mother to spy her strange little boy watching this strange man on TV, trying to emulate his moves and falling all over the place. She thought she would never stop laughing!

When I heard of Jack's passing, my mind and body were flooded with all those childhood memories: the sounds, smells, sights and most importantly the feelings. I remembered how young and beautiful my mother was, our apartment, our breakfasts together, the neighborhood, the school, my teacher, the 1960s and Jack LaLanne. Jack touched my mind, body and spirit that winter morning some 45 years ago. He has stayed with me all these years, and I can't thank him enough. Through thick and thin, ups and downs, fitness has always been there for me. Today once again Jack LaLanne has touched my heart.  I love you, Jack. Be well.

Steven T. Brown
Los Angeles

I was a young mother when I first tuned into Jack LaLanne's TV show and learned the
importance of good nutrition and regular exercise. Fifty years later the benefits have far
exceeded my expectations. Thank you, Jack, and may you rest in peace.

Marilyn Jensen
La Habra

I was sorry to read the obit about Jack LaLanne. It brought back fond memories from many years ago, when my late husband, Ira, was cameraman on Jack's show at KTTV. Elaine was often at the studio as well, and she and Jack were always a delight to be around whenever I visited there. I would occasionally run into the two of them, sometimes on less than joyous occasions such as memorial services for mutual friends. However, I was always greeted with a smile and a firm handshake.

We've lost a truly unique gentleman, and my sincere sympathies go out to Elaine and all the family.

Ellie Doud
Sherman Oaks

Jack LaLanne was one of my few real heroes. When I began injuring myself at work because I was out of shape, it was Jack's message that "I could do it" that started me, at 45 years of age, seriously working out. Today, nearing 69 years of age, as I load nearly 400 pounds onto my bar to practice my squats, I have a body that most 20-year-olds in this country would give their teeth for. He was a truly great role model and I am very sad at our loss.

Timothy Wawrzeniak

And finally, a history lesson:

While Jack LaLanne is popularly known as the "spiritual father" of the fitness movement in America, and crusaded with "religious fervor" to create an alternative health movement in the second half of the 20th century based on bodybuilding and nutrition, the title rightly belongs to Bernarr MacFadden.

MacFadden is recognized in historical fitness texts as "The Father of Physical Culture," a term later adopted by LaLanne. Born in 1868, MacFadden inspired millions of Americans through his appearances and magazines that health was to be achieved through vigorous bodybuilding and healthful nutrition. He founded "Physical Culture" magazine in 1899 and became a wealthy fitness mogul. He campaigned against "pill-pushers" and processed foods and built fitness centers, called "Healthatoriums," across the country. His feats of strength are well documented and preceded LaLanne's by 50 years.

Bernarr MacFadden was both a model and a guru for future bodybuilding and fitness advocates such as LaLanne, Charles Atlas and Bob Hoffman, founder of "Strength and Health" magazine.

Dan Anzel
Los Angeles

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