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Bill and Darleen Anderson were fitness pioneers in Springfield. (Photo: Andrew Jansen/News-Leader)

Bill and Darleen Anderson have not passed away at the age of 87.

They have two children, five grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren that do not survive them because Bill and Darleen are very much alive.

I sat down with Bill and Darleen in their Springfield home on Wednesday to talk about their full and active lives of fitness and why, exactly, Darleen called the paper recently suggesting we do a story on them.

I asked: Had something recently happened? Had one of them recently won an award or accomplished an age-group fitness feat? 

No, says Darleen. 

It’s just that she reads the News-Leader obituaries and some are beautifully written as they detail the full and fulfilling lives of those who have recently died.

“When I read some of the obituaries, they are so good,” Darleen says. 

It made her think: Did the people who died know they had such an impact on their community and on their families and friends?  

Wouldn’t it be nice, she asks, if the dearly departed had actually been able to read their obituaries?

OK, I thought. I’m in.

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Nevertheless, I’m not approaching this as their future obituary. In fact, they remain in reasonably good health.

I’m approaching this as a profile of two remarkable people who have left a mark on their community through their lifetimes of fitness.

“Our motto is that fitness is more than a business,” Darleen says. “It’s a way of life.”

In 1972, they opened the first privately owned fitness center in Springfield. It was called Ozark Fitness Center. 

Bill and Darleen Anderson first had a gymnastics center; it soon became a fitness center. (Photo: file photo)

They sold it about 25 years later. Their business was at South National Avenue and Battlefield Road, where there is a Genesis Health Club today.

They were about 40 years old when they took out their entire retirement savings — they were both teachers within Springfield Public Schools — and changed the course of their lives.

Originally, the business was a gymnastics center, in large part because their daughter Gayle was an extraordinary gymnast and later became a track standout and a state-champion hurdler at Kickapoo High School.

The transition started when they first placed treadmills around the inside perimeter of the building and, as they say, the rest was history. 

They soon had more than 1,000 annual members.

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Met at Marshfield High

Bill Anderson and Darleen Gower were high school sweethearts at Marshfield High. 

Although the same age, Darleen graduated in 1951 and he graduated the next spring.

“I flunked third grade,” Bill explains.

Actually, both he and his identical twin Max flunked third grade because they are dyslexic.

Bill Anderson was an outstanding basketball player. He was 5