Rob Pelletier, Mob Boss of Wellness

Rob Pelletier,  Master Coach
Rob Pelletier,
Master Coach

As an instructor in mixed martial arts, Rob Pelletier has for many years taught his clients how to inflict pain. As a Master Coach in Toronto he instructed in boxing, Muay Thai, MMA, Self Defense and sports conditioning. He also managed a gym with 22,000 members. Almost 3 years ago he and wife Donna established a gym located on the main street of Keremeos. Since that time their vision has altered radically and, although they still offer instruction in martial arts, Coach Rob has become known as “the mob boss of wellness.”

When Linda and I entered their Main Event gym across from the liquor store, I was immediately impressed by the heavy duty punching bags suspended from the ceiling, the type that can withstand serious pummelling by powerful fists and feet. Rob walked toward us, exuding energy and enthusiasm. A big, well constructed man, I could easily picture him clad in shorts, engaged in high level competition.



We sat on stools at a small coffee bar in the rear of the gym and I asked Rob how he had got started. A palpable passion energized his voice and hand gestures as he began talking. “When I was age 8, my parents enrolled me in boxing. I had a lot of energy and they thought boxing would be good for me.” That eventually led to a career in mixed martial arts. Early in his career he trained in the gym where 12 year old Lennox Lewis (later one of the world’s greatest heavyweight boxers) was working out. Over the years he trained with numerous high profile fighters and knew five time Canadian Heavyweight Boxing Champion, George Chuvalo.

“When Donna and I moved to Keremeos we began doing private training in our home,” he said. “We leased this building which was then vacant and in a state of disrepair.”

Donna Pelletier
Donna Pelletier

He now turned the conversation in another direction. “In the beginning Martial Arts was our emphasis, and we still do that. Donna teaches ladies kick boxing. However, retired people started dropping in. Some just wanted to have a coffee and talk. We began to realize their health was failing because many people are not physically active in retirement.”

Their changing clientele prompted a shift to promoting wellness. This attracted individuals of all ages wanting to deal with a variety of issues. Rob’s experience had prepared him for this transition. He had worked with sports psychologists and athletic therapists. He had also taken accredited courses in wellness.

Health professionals began recognizing the benefit of their programs. A cardiologist sent a man with a pacemaker. He had almost died, but is now working out on a treadmill at the gym. Physiotherapists are also referring clients. The Pelletiers are recognized by insurance companies. While we were talking, Don and his wife came in. Having had a shoulder replacement, he wanted help in gaining strength and movement.


“We’re a safety net for people in aftercare,” Rob said. “Some of our clients stop smoking. A wife told us her husband is drinking less alcohol. Some people report their medications are more effective when they work out here. Others rely less on prescriptions.”

The Pelletier’s have clients ranging in age from 5 to 80. Wanting to ensure that children from less affluent homes don’t miss out, they at times provide free memberships.

Sometimes people say, “I know I should exercise,” or “I should be more careful about what I eat.” But they don’t make the needed changes. “People rely on doctors and prescriptions to maintain their health,” Rob believes, “but we need to accept responsibility for our health.”


He stresses the role of our thinking. “It’s important to focus on what we can do, not on what we cannot do. What we do here is a form of proactive medicine.” He draws a lesson from physical combat. “If 2 fighters of equal ability and strength are in the ring, the one with a stronger attitude will win.” He tapped his head with a finger to support his words. I began to understand that an emphasis on strong, positive thinking is at the crux of his philosophy.

As we were about to leave, Coach Rob said, “some people go across the street to the liquor store for what they think they need. Some come in here and begin a program of wellness that will change their lives.”

Exploring the Mystery of Easter

Crosses - three
Crosses – three

Biblical accounts of Easter events seem to me improbable, puzzling and at the same time fascinating. As a kid I dreaded Good Friday because it entailed attending church and listening to a preacher who spoke a language I didn’t understand. In my adult years I’ve wondered why an all-powerful God would send his son to planet earth to be ridiculed and harassed by Jewish religious leaders and nailed to a cross by Roman soldiers. Surely he could have devised a more comprehensible scheme. One that did not require the ignominious death of his son on a cross.

By the time Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Jews had already endured the cruelty of the Assyrians, and then captivity in Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. Permitted to return to their homeland by Darius, the Medo-Persian monarch, they had still been in bondage. Then the Greeks imposed Hellenization, weakening their culture and religion. And now the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus was exacting oppressive taxes that impoverished them.

The 6th century B.C. Jewish prophets, Isaiah and Micah, had written about a coming Messiah, but when Jesus arrived and said he was the son of God, Jewish religious leaders turned against him early in his public life. They had long anticipated a powerful political saviour who would arrive with pomp and ceremony and deliver them from the succession of foreign masters. This man Jesus had come into the world as an infant, the son of a lowly carpenter.

He didn’t meet their expectations. His message was a radical departure from the longstanding “eye for an eye and tooth for tooth” response to adversaries. Rather, in his oft quoted Sermon on the Mount, he urged the gathering crowd to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

His message included a warning against the hypocrisy of Jewish religious leaders, the Sadducees and Pharisees. “They like to walk around in flowing robes,” he said, “and love to be greeted in the market places and have the most important seats in the synagogues and at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.”

Accustomed to reverential respect, such sentiments did not endear him to the religious elites. They were rattled by the rebukes and Jesus’ unwillingness to observe their myriad rules. They were incensed at the numbers of people flocking to listen to him. Equally galling was his claim to be the son of God. His radical philosophy was undermining their exalted positions.

The crowds recognized that, unlike the chief priests and teachers of the law, Jesus wasn’t socially or politically ambitious. He wasn’t seeking position, wealth or power. He made no effort to charm his audience. He wanted to free the people from man made strictures. His unorthodox, unvarnished message emphasized love, forgiveness and hope.

In line with what had been written by ancient prophets, he spoke of his own impending death. Referring to himself he said “he will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him and flog him, and kill him.” Then he added, “and on the third day he will rise again.”

One event in particular awed the crowds and shocked the Sadducees and Pharisees. This was Jesus’ act of raising Lazarus from the dead. It was too much for the religious elites. Seeing their tight control over the people being eroded, they decided he must die.

Crucifixion was common in the Roman Empire and they demanded that the governor, Pontius Pilate, order this fate for Jesus. After questioning him, Pilate said, “I find no reason for this man to die.” The Jewish leaders incited the onlookers to demand Jesus’ death and Pilate, fearing a disturbance, relented. He instructed a centurion and his troop to nail him to a cross on a hill outside the town. The cross was placed between 2 criminals, also on crosses. One mocked him, the other asked to be remembered. Jesus said, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

Easter Lily
Easter Lily

This plan for the redemption of humankind is so unusual and perplexing, many cannot embrace it. Even so, millions around the globe will celebrate Easter this weekend.
Although still not fully comprehending, I will be one of them.

The Hedley Sunshine Girls

Hedley Sunshine Girls
Hedley Sunshine Girls

I call Evangeline and Shizandra the “Hedley Sunshine Girls” because their joy of life is refreshing and contagious, much like an unexpected ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. About a year ago I began thinking it would be fun to have them as my friends. When I attempted to get them to notice me though, I just didn’t possess the IMG_2386charm or charisma to capture their attention. They were in their own little world, sometimes crawling on the floor, pretending they were dogs, sometimes racing each other non-stop. Probably because I was an adult, their young minds could think of no reason to let me in.

IMG_2312I persevered though and asked their mother if I could take a few pictures. She agreed and although the girls didn’t stop long enough to pose, I snapped several shots of them in action. When I showed them the photos on my camera, they were intrigued at seeing themselves.

IMG_2387They are now willing to participate in my amateur photography and quickly come around to view the pictures. Evangeline even offered me an Oreo cookie which she had licked clean of the icing.

For many in our community, the Hedley Sunshine Girls are a delight. They give us a reason to smile.

Sharlene & Sabbath In Windy Canyon

Sharlene & Sabbath
Sharlene & Sabbath

Linda and I have had frequent encounters with Sharlene and Sabbath in the wilderness surrounding Hedley. Recently, before the snow melted, they trekked up the winding former mining road to a tunnel overlooking Windy Canyon. That was undoubtedly a challenge for Sabbath’s stubby legs. I did the climb several times years ago when I was younger and fairly fit. Even then it was a good test of physical endurance. Evidently Sabbath is willing and eager to go where Sharlene leads. She has explored farther afield than we have in recent years. Her enthusiasm for the outdoors is infectious. She’s a reminder that we are extraordinarily blessed to be living in the midst of this rugged and spectacular grandeur. A touch of Eden.

Sharlene is enthusiastic about Windy Canyon.
Sharlene is enthusiastic about Windy Canyon.

Bob (Dinny) & Beryl Mullin

Dinny Mullin
Dinny Mullin

Bob Mullin was waiting on the porch when Linda and I arrived at his home on the outskirts of Princeton. He reached out a big hand and said, “Hi, I’m Dinny.”

In the dining room, which overlooks the Similkameen River, his wife Beryl set steaming cups of coffee before us. A wood stove in the corner provided a cozy warmth. I began by asking Dinny for the story behind what I felt was an intriguing nickname. He laughed. “My parents didn’t know I was born with impaired hearing,” he replied. “Often when my Dad asked me a question, I didn’t hear him, so I didn’t answer. He thought I wasn’t paying attention so he began calling me Dinny Dimwit, after a cartoon character.”

For many the inability to understand well is a debilitating impediment in social and employment situations. It might have sidelined him in the game of life. Had Dinny been less resolute and resilient, he could easily have joined the company of the malcontented when he left school without graduating. Instead, he carried on as though the impairment wasn’t a concern. “My first job was at Burr’s Motors,” he said. “The Ku Klux Klan was active here at that time and the owner was a member.” For a moment he seemed to return in his mind to those early days, then added, “They burned a cross in town.”

I was to discover that Dinny delights in sharing from his storehouse of tantalizing facts and events from the past. He pointed across the river and said, “that’s where Bill Miner’s cabin was. He’d ride from there in the morning and rob a train. By evening he was back. My mom said he was a hell of a dancer.”

Dinny and Beryl met at a school dance in Coalmont, the beginning of a life long love affair. “It was minus 32 Fahrenheit the day we were married 60 years ago,” Beryl recalled. Dinny reflected for a moment, seemingly surprised at the number of years. He smiled and said “I didn’t think I’d last this long.”

Beryl & Dinny Mullin
Beryl & Dinny Mullin

Endowed with the wide shouldered frame of a prairie wheat farmer, his early ambition was to join the provincial police. Alert, strong and thoughtful, he’d certainly have been an asset to the force, but it didn’t happen. “I was told I wouldn’t get in because of the hearing impairment,” he said. He refused to be discouraged though and got a job at the Granby Power Plant. When it closed, he worked for the local sawmill.

He understood that a community will be strong only if people accept responsibility and participate. “I got my Industrial First Aid ticket and joined the volunteer Fire Department,” he told us. “They gave us $3.00 a month. Most of us turned that back in to buy equipment. Sometimes I drove the ambulance. We did whatever was needed.”

Unlike today, those were not times when people could easily buy virtually everything they deemed a necessity. Dinny and his friends joined a local hockey team and played against other towns. “For padding we used Sears and Eatons catalogues,” he said. “We cut strips of tire tubing to hold them in place. No one owned a helmet.” His usual position was centre. Although goalie wasn’t a position he cared for, he became net minder if necessary. Now 84, he’s an ardent Canuck fan. “Right now he’s a little mad at them,” Beryl confided. “They aren’t winning a lot.”

They weren’t afraid of challenges. “We bought a 200 acre ranch 3 miles along the Merritt road,” Dinny said. “We ran 50 head of cattle. Often while I was at work, Beryl rode the range. It got to be too much though, working and ranching. A guy told me once the only thing stupider than a cow is the person who owns it. We sold the ranch.”

By the time our conversation drew to a close, I concluded Dinny and Beryl have achieved an enviable camaraderie and zest for life. She makes borscht and regularly plays bridge. He plays crib and each Tuesday meets for coffee with former hockey pals at the Sandman Inn. From their comfortable dining room they can observe an eagle building its nest or children tubing on the river. He now has hearing aids and his father would certainly agree ” Dinny Dimwit” has become surprisingly intelligent.

Doctor Assisted Suicide

Unless we’ve endured traumatic physical, emotional, or psychological distress, the current debate concerning doctor assisted suicide may be of little interest to us. It’s an issue I began thinking about some years ago as the result of a difficult personal experience.

A medical practitioner performed a maneuver on me that seriously disturbed my sciatic nerve. Over several days an excruciating, burning pain began radiating downward from my back to my toes. I wasn’t told one of my pain prescriptions could induce suicidal thoughts. The prospect of living out my years with this throbbing, burning pain almost unhinged me. I sat on the floor of our living room many nights, thinking about dragging myself to the nearest busy street and waiting for a large truck. It was a realization this act would be grossly unfair to Linda that held me back. Fortunately, a couple of people urged me to visit a doctor who had helped them and in time my condition improved.

Dad visiting with his grandson.
Dad visiting with his grandson.

I didn’t feel I had handled my adversity well. Then my 89 year old Dad broke a hip and was placed in a longterm care facility where all residents required wheelchairs and extensive help. This presented me with an opportunity to observe the response of people living with extremely depleted health.

Some, like Ruby, felt they had been betrayed by their bodies. A former airline hostess, she still retained vestiges of the startlingly good looks that must have once turned the heads of male passengers. Now in her early 40’s, she had MS and the bitter tone and words suggested she considered her life finished. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a support network to sustain her.

In the room next to Dad was Ron, whose ALS was already well advanced. He and his wife understood the illness would relentlessly destroy his ability to function. During the half year I knew him, Ron was rarely alone, except at night. A virtually endless stream of family and friends visited, even though they could no longer understand his words. He loved the people and they loved him. Their presence seemed to give him a reason to live.

One of my favourite residents was Susie. Now in her early 80’s, she had fallen out of a cherry tree several years ago. An adventuresome soul who had loved action, she now sat quietly in her wheelchair in the dining room, unable to propel herself. In spite of this cruel twist of fate, her eyes twinkled and she smiled when I crouched beside her to visit. A few days before she passed away, she reached for my hand and pronounced a blessing on me in her native tongue.

Dad’s response to the unkind ravages of life gave me a further example that has impacted my thinking. He had once been a respected heavy equipment operator and active in the community. Music had long been a passion and now in the facility he still played the cello, although with enormous difficulty.

At night 2 care aides used a lift to place him in bed. In the morning they dressed him and lifted him into his wheelchair. On bath day the lift lowered him into the tub and an aide washed him. He required assistance for going to the bathroom. Toward the end, he was too weak to feed himself.

Because of his age and helpless state, several nurses said, “you need to give him permission to die.” Very reluctantly, I followed this advice. “No,” Dad said firmly, “I still like to live.” He never became bitter, never let the experience take away his sense of dignity.

Like Ron and Susie, Dad had gathered inner strength, built strong relationships with the extended family, and resisted feeling sorry for himself when circumstances turned against him. He had come to a place of deep inner contentment which served him well in this state of virtually complete helplessness.

Having experienced pain myself, I cannot argue with those who long to die because their bodies are wracked by intense, uncontrollable pain. Nor with those who know their condition will deteriorate into a vegetative state. I do feel though that our society may be rushing too quickly along a path fraught with dangerous and unanticipated perils. My hope is that we can be wiser, more compassionate in offering help to incapacitated people. At least in some cases, there may be happier options than suicide.