There’s no way to know for sure, but it’s probably a good bet that 88-year-old John Cory was the oldest participant in the Polar Plunge March 3 at Eagle Creek Reservoir.
Cory decided to take a “dip” in the frigid waters because he is impressed with the group – Special Olympics Indiana – that benefits from the event.
“I have so much respect for the Special Olympics athletes. I though it would be fun to raise money for them, and I raised about $400. And I wanted to do something exciting. I spend a lot of time cooking in my efficiency apartment, and that gets boring.”
Clad in just a swimming suit, Cory, who gets around well with the assistance of a walker, received a little help from two kind individuals when wading out in neck-high water.
“It was cold, but I was so hyped up about doing it that it wasn’t that bad. I was probably in the water two or three minutes. I felt the cold a little more when I got out of the water.”
Cory, who swims daily at Baxter YMCA, entered the water from a different area than those who were more mobile and had about an hour wait before he took his “stroll.”
“I just had on my bathing suit, and someone brought down my walker so I could sit on it, and a lady police officer gave me her coat. It wouldn’t zip because I was too big, but that was OK. Another person brought me a blanket to put over my legs, and someone else gave me a towel to put over my head. If the rest of the world were as kind as those people, it would be a lot nicer place to live.”
A lifelong Southsider, Cory graduated from Manual High School and drove a semi, worked on a freight dock and served as a carpenters assistant until retiring.
He coached seventh- and eighth-grade football, volleyball and kickball at Our Lady of the Greenwood School for about 12 years from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. “I enjoyed working with the kids and helping them get better. We had some good teams,” he said, “and we won some divisional champions. One of our football teams finished second in the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) tournament.
“I tried all the sports when I was young, but I was small and slow. Need I say more.”
He keeps in touch with several of his former players. “One of them laughingly said he would pay me not to take the plunge next year. The other said he would make a contribution.”
Cory and his wife, Frances, who died in 2015, had seven children, all of whom are deceased except for daughter Jonnie. “We are very close,” said Corey, who has about 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. “I’m hoping to be around long enough to have a great-great-grandchild, but I guess God will determine that. And I hope I’m in good health if it happens. One of my granddaughters wants to take the plunge with me next year. I’m going to try to raise $600.”
A Korean War veteran, Cory enjoyed an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in September. “We were treated like heroes, and we got to see all the monuments.”