She never has a cheat day.
LaVerne Pace, who lives in Lutz, is easily the town’s most-active 100-year-old.
She can be found at the Jazzercise off Lutz Lake Fern Road up to five times a week, dancing away — or as much as she possibly can — during the high-energy exercise sessions.
Despite her age and varying operations over the years, she credits these classes to her excellent health, a desire to stay active and, of course, to developing dozens of friendships.
“I believe in keeping moving,” Pace said. “I march (in place) as much as I can and can’t (move my) arms and legs at the same time, but as long as I keep both moving when I can, then I know it’s a good workout.
“I just keep going (to class and in life),” she added. “All my friends are gone, but now these are my new friends! I attribute Jazzercise to reaching 100. I really do.”
Originally from Salida, Colorado, Pace moved to Miami at age 5. She grew up and attended school in Miami, visited the Everglades, occasionally, and became a junior high math teacher for 20 years.
She and her husband lived in Miami until 1989, before moving to Lutz. Her husband passed in 2001, after nearly 55 years of marriage.
But nothing — including having both her hips and a knee replaced and gallbladder removed — slowed her down.
She went to a Curves studio for years until it closed, took a few years off exercising and then took up Jazzercise in 2012. In doing so, she made dozens of friends, including more than 50 who showed up to her birthday workout class on July 3.
“I don’t have the words to explain how she motivates other people,” said Colleen Pedersen, co-owner of the Lutz Jazzercise. “To see anyone complain about an ache or pain, but then they turn and look at her — they say, ‘Well, if she can do it, I can!’
“She attributes coming (to Jazzercise) five times a week to her longevity and her health — she’s healthy as a horse!” Pedersen added. “She does what she can, and that’s more than people half her age that don’t exercise like her — they’re on oxygen tanks or have diabetes and because they’ve been sedentary for so long, they can’t do what LaVerne does.
“She’s always been moving and she still can move at her age.”
Despite being in great shape, there are some things that Pace cannot do on her own. She uses the aid of a walker, but also the aid of Jazzercise friends, who drive her to the classes.
“We’re Team Daisy!” said Pace’s daughter, Carolyn Sterger, who also works out at Jazzercise. “Like (the movie), ‘Driving Ms. Daisy.’ So we’re her tribe here. That’s why there were 65 or more people at Stonewater Grill (in Land O’ Lakes) for her birthday (lunch).
“When she goes to her physical, the doctor is like, ‘Can you raise your hands above your head?’ and she’s doing this (waving her arms like in class) and the doctor is like, ‘I’ve got people half your age who can’t do that right there!’
“Jazzercise has definitely helped her all these years,” Sterger added.
There might be another reason this great-grandmother has plenty of friends at Jazzercise. She’s also known as the “Boozy Baker.” Even though she doesn’t drink, she’ll make cakes with alcohol and give them to her friends at Jazzercise.
“Everyone does love those cakes,” Pace said. “Maybe that’s why I have so many friends!”
“No,” Pederson added. “This is her family, these are her friends, now, because she’ll tell you all her friends are dead — but they’re really here at Jazzercise. She’s like a grandma to my 12-year-old daughter.
“And it’s her upbeat personality. Who knows how much longer she has, but she doesn’t look 100 because when most people think of a 100-year-old, they don’t think of LaVerne.
“With her longevity, it makes you want to experience life the same way she has.”
“I have more (surgical) hardware than she does and something is going to break on me — so, not sure I’ll make it to 100, but maybe genetics will help!” Sterger said. “She definitely keeps me going!”
According to Boston University centenarian statistics, only .27% of the 330 million U.S. population reaches age 100. That makes Pace a rarity — one who reached her goal to have 150 Jazzercise classes this year before her birthday.
Because she never took a day off.
“Oh yeah, I’m going to keep coming, probably until I drop dead here at Jazzercise (laughs). I’ve been very blessed with good health and family and friends,” Pace said. “I really never thought I’d reach 100 and I don’t know anyone else who has!”
Where: 19012 First St., S.W., in Lutz
When: Open seven days a week for morning and afternoon sessions
Details: With locations all over the country, Jazzercise uses high-energy dance cardio, such as Cardio or Power Sculpt, to help participants get in shape.
For more information on the Lutz location, call 813-406-4707, or visit Jazzercise.com.
Published July 19, 2023