Surrounded by treadmills, ellipticals and weight machines, Frank Montemurro was helped out of his wheelchair and danced with his significant other, Sandi Badash, to celebrate his 87th birthday on Saturday.
Montemurro has been rehabbing, after surviving two strokes, with the goal of improving his mobility to dance with Badash.
“Everyone knows where you’ve come from and we will all be proud of you,” Badash told Montemurro shortly before he got out of his wheelchair.
The couple held hands and swayed to Bobby Darin’s 1960 hit “Mack The Knife” with several kisses and a couple of twirls mixed in.
Jon Bates, owner of Addicted To Fitness in East Naples, has worked with Montemurro since his most recent stroke about a year and half ago, and helped organize the birthday party where the couple danced.
Fellow gym members, church friends and even some who have been following Montemurro’s progress on social media attended the birthday party inside Addicted To Fitness.
“He is just an inspiration,” Bates said. “So many people in his scenario would just kind of give up because they are in a wheelchair. To have this man, who has had two strokes willing to work so hard to try and walk again to me it’s unbelievably inspirational.”
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Montemurro has come a long way as he had a difficult time just standing up from his wheelchair after his second stroke, Bates said.
Dancing has always been a part of Montemurro’s life since he started at age 15. He taught his older brothers to dance before their weddings and the polka has always been Montemurro’s specialty.
A dance at a veteran’s center is where Montemurro and Badash met 27 years ago.
“I’ve never gotten attention like this in my life,” Montemurro said at his birthday party surrounded by about 20 of his friends and supporters. “I am overwhelmed.”
Between working with Bates at Addicted To Fitness, working out at a different gym and doing exercises in the pool, Montemurro exercises five days a week, with the goal of improving his mobility.
A few days before the birthday party, Montemurro and Badash practiced dancing in the pool at a rehabilitation center in Naples called Water Works Total Rehab.
“It was really nice to see how happy Frank was,” Badash said. “He was holding me like a dancer rather than making believe when he is in his chair. We were really dancing together.”
Nothing has come easy since his second stroke, but Montemurro said he now has the goal of living to 99.
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“It’s a two-fold thing because I knew Frank when he was very well,” Badash said. “I’m having to get used to seeing him not so well then seeing him get better. But through it all, he has had a great attitude.”
Montemurro said it was his active lifestyle that pushed him to work toward getting his mobility back.
After serving two tours in the Navy in the 1950s and early 1960s, Montemurro became a commercial airline pilot. Montemurro and Badash have done a lot of traveling together and have been on more than 50 cruises.
The couple continue to travel and plan to make a trip to Washington, D.C., in the next couple weeks to see Montemurro’s brother.
“He’s got a tremendous will,” Badash said. “I know some people just don’t have it and they give up, but he has not. He has wonderful caretakers and they definitely are there to help keep pushing Frank forward.”
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