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"What's that?': New Wash Park bench plaque honors Denver fitness legend

John Gillingham
Posted at 4:40 PM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 18:40:47-04

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DENVER – This Sunday, friends and family members of John Gillingham, a popular Denver fitness instructor, will hold a celebration of life event in Washington Park where they will unveil a new park bench to honor Gillingham’s life.

For more than five decades, Gillingham taught fitness classes throughout Denver.

“In the '80s, he became closely involved with Governor Dick Lamb, and he was on the governor's physical fitness council for 4 years,” said Gillingham’s friend and historian Fred Ward.

“John had a close friend who was a Bronco … he worked for them I think for 3 or 4 years. It was a different kind of training. It wasn’t about bulking up muscles, it was more about flexibility and stretching,” said Ward.

But Gillingham didn’t just teach famous residents, he taught anyone who wanted to get in shape.

“He had these amazing aerobics classes,” said Gillingham’s friend, Jan Hauer.

Hauer told Denver7 Gillingham’s classes were tough but worth it.

“I think the thing that I loved about his classes was that he was motivational in a drill sergeant-but-fun way,” said Hauer.

Another one of Gillingham’s friends, Richard “RJ” Booth, said that “fun” would save his life.

“In 2001, I almost died, to be honest. And the doctors said the reason I lived is because I was in such good shape. A lot of that was contributed to John and the classes,” said Booth. “He worked you extremely hard, to where you really wondered if you wanted to do it again but because of his personality you were just drawn back.”

On July 10, 2020, John Gillingham died.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, his friends chose to delay hosting a large celebration of life event.

But on Sunday June 6, 2021 at 1 p.m. in front of the Washington Park Recreation Center, Gillingham’s friends and family members will hold an event to honor the fitness legend.

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