Hart House Parents and Students

Fitness Legacy

Jon started his family late in life and was 50 by the time he had Owen. Looking at them, people often mistake them for grandfather and grandson, but talk to them, and you begin to wonder who is parenting whom.

When asked to imagine themselves being the same age and meeting here at Hart House, would they have been friends? Jon immediately begins to shake his head. Both Jon and Owen are dedicated regulars at the Hart House Fitness Centre. In his day, Jon was a competitive runner. Now, he and Owen train together in the weight room.

Jon explains their opposite approaches to fitness, “I’ve always been competitive, perhaps too much so, while Owen addresses his training in a more intellectual fashion. Back when I was running track, we would really push ourselves, do heavy circuits, but we paid a price. Now I have to deal with all these injuries.”

“Had we known each other back then,” says Owen, “I would have stopped him from doing silly things.”

“I wouldn’t have listened to him,” Jon interrupts.

“And, we wouldn’t have been friends,” concludes Owen.

After a moment of reflection a broad grin appears on Jon’s face, “Yeah, I was really intense back then.”

“You wouldn’t have gone with me to Mandarin for the all you can eat buffet,” says Owen.

“No,” says Jon with another headshake.

Despite their banter, Owen says of his father, “It’s pretty easy to know him. I feel like we’re on the same page.”

Growing up at Hart House

For most of Owen’s life, it’s been just the two of them. His mother passed away when he was young and Owen spent his early years traipsing around Hart House with his dad: running around the upper gym, getting haircuts, and endearing himself to the Hart House staff. Helen, an 11-year veteran of the Fitness Centre Desk, remembers Owen at age 10 and marvels at how tall and muscular he’s become, proving that even “intellectual” approaches to training can pay off.

They have different tastes in movies, training philosophies, and dispositions—“easy-going” vs. “competitive”—but when it comes to Hart House, both Owen and Jon share a favourite memory.

“You ran a race for me,” says Jon. “Filled in for me at a track meet and ran two laps. I had injured my leg and there was a meet. It was officiated by Bruce Kidd who’s now Warden of Hart House. All the former competitive runners were to go a few laps in honour of someone’s 80th birthday, but I couldn’t run. Owen was 9-years old and I had him do it for me. He ran full out and finished one lap in great time only to discover that he was supposed to run two! Somehow he managed it. He did a good job.”

Jon has been coming to Hart House since 1959 and Owen since he was 8-years old. When asked what it is about Hart House that’s special, they both have the same answer: the familiar faces.

“It’s not just the building we’re in,” says Jon “it’s the people who create the warm impression.”

Owen agrees, “The best thing about Hart House is talking to Marcus [facility staff] and hearing his interesting stories.”

Jon launches into a story of his own, “I remember coming here on a Saturday morning to go to the gym, and hearing this gorgeous piano music playing in the background as I entered the building. That’s Hart House. Nowhere else can you get that.”

It must have been impressive music considering the other stories Jon has to tell, like the time he saw Mick Jagger running on the track and ended up going for breakfast with him. Or when he convinced fellow racecar enthusiast Paul Newman to rent one of the third-floor rooms at Hart House “so he could have some privacy” instead of staying at the Park Plaza. Or the days when he used to share a locker with Harry Rosen. The stories could go on and on, but it’s time for Jon and Owen to hit the gym, and nothing should stand in the way of that.

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