Real Life Story — Don McPherson

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Canadian-born Don McPherson recalls skiing for the first time as a boy in Toronto’s High Park. “At that time, there were no lifts, no lessons – just a hill covered in snow,” said McPherson.


Don McPherson, 80, taking to the slopes in March 2013 at Whitetail Ski Resort. (Photograph by Tim Hugus)

In his late 50s, McPherson met a man skiing in the Rockies who was 80 years old. He recalled, “I thought, ‘I want to be able to ski when I’m 80,’ so I set that goal for myself.”  McPherson has reached that goal, and has no plans to stop skiing anytime soon.

In 1973, Dr. McPherson was working at a nuclear research lab in Ontario when he was invited to take a position as a nuclear reactor safety engineer with the Atomic Energy Commission – parent of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. His work with the Commission took him to all of the nuclear laboratories throughout the U.S. and to all the nuclear power countries of the world. In 2012, McPherson moved with his wife, Silvia, to Ashby Ponds retirement community from Falls Church, Va., where he had lived since 1975. Ashby Ponds is managed by Erickson Living and situated on a scenic 132-acre campus in Ashburn, Va.

McPherson might be considered somewhat of an athletic Renaissance man. As a child, he spent summers swimming in Lake Simcoe and caddying while at his grandfather’s cottage. In high school, McPherson was on the swimming, diving, gymnastics, and football teams. During his college days at the University of Toronto, McPherson was on the diving team and took pilot training with the Canadian Air Force.

Today, McPherson continues to stay healthy by visiting the Ashby Ponds fitness center two or three times per week, bicycling on the W&OD trail that passes nearby, and skiing during the winter months. ”Being outside in nature, especially in the mountains, is fabulous,” said McPherson. “I love seeing the views, and there’s a healthy aspect about it that simply leaves me feeling good.”

In early March, McPherson made a trip to Whitetail Ski Resort in Pa., which is 76 miles from Ashby Ponds. There, he met a man who was keeping a blog about his experiences skiing for 60 days around the world for his 60th birthday. After having learned about McPherson’s determination to ski at 80, he named him his “man of the day.”

For McPherson, eighty is nothing more than a number. “I’ve always been considered ‘too young’ for the positions that I’ve held,” said McPherson. “I guess now I’m reaping the benefits!”

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