Senior-center athlete from Wilkinsburg going strong at almost 80
Robert Yee doesn't stop moving for very long. Even during a sit-down interview, he talks with his hands and is in constant motion.
That might help explain why, at 78, the Wilkinsburg resident still manages senior-league softball in Penn Hills, serves as a pinch runner for his championship team — “They called me the Orient Express,” he said — and still works part-time engineering replacement windows at Bon-Air Products on Sandy Creek Road.
“God blessed me with strong legs and good health,” Yee said.
His most recent accomplishment is bringing back four medals from last month's Citiparks Winter Senior Games.
Yee won gold medals in shuffleboard and darts, and silver medals in a hockey shootout and his favorite event, table tennis.
He began playing table tennis as a teenager at summer camps, now plays twice a week at the Penn Hills Senior Center on Jefferson Road and said that as he has gotten older, it has helped him maintain his hand-eye coordination and quickness.
“I've loved to play (table tennis) all my life, but I'd never competed against people my age,” Yee said. “It was nice to compete and win a table-tennis medal for the first time.”
But it's hardly Yee's first year on the Citiparks medal stand. He has attended the Winter Games the past nine years, and brought a bag containing more than 20 medals to a recent interview.
“I really enjoy the thrill of victory,” he said.
Citiparks Program Supervisor Ray Fisher said the Winter Games this year drew about 300 senior athletes.
“Robert's one of the more active participants,” Fisher said, adding that the Winter Games — and their counterpart, the Citiparks Summer Games, which take place annually in June — are more than just a chance for seniors to get some exercise in a friendly competition.
“Along with the physical part of it and the competitive part, there is also the social aspect of the games,” he said. “A lot of folks come back every year, and I've watched them move up in age groups over the years. It's very gratifying and rewarding to see that it's been pretty popular.”
Too small to be an athlete when he was attending the now-defunct Fifth Avenue High School in Pittsburgh, Yee is enjoying the camaraderie with fellow seniors and competition at the Citiparks games.
He said he'll keep attending — on one condition.
“As long as it doesn't interfere with softball,” he said. “Softball comes first.”
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.