George Sakkal has left the building – alas!

September 24, 2010 at 2:14 am (Food, Mind/body)

For about nine years, I attended an aerobics-cum-conditioning class taught three times a week by George Sakkal. I started doing this not long after receiving my diagnosis of Type Two Diabetes. In addition to drastically changing my diet, I was strongly urged to get more exercise. A better way to put that  is that I was urged to get exercise, period. Up until that time, the only parts of my body getting a workout of any kind were my hands, or more specifically, my fingers, as they turned the pages of the books I devoured. Yes, devoured… along with a generous helping of Doritos, my favorite food group. Then, a terrible reality was borne in upon me: If I wished to continue to gorging myself on these , I would have to stop gorging myself on these . This was a cruel choice to have to make, but there really was no choice. Adieu, my delicious, wonderfully crunchy Doritos… Do I still miss them? You bet I do. In fact, I’m starting to crave them as I write this.

While battling extreme chip withdrawal (along with potato and rice and pasta and bread and dessert withdrawal – pretty much everything that makes life worth living, in other words), I started going to exercise classes. And the most amazing thing happened: I began to have fun. That fun was mostly generated by exceptional teachers – like George Sakkal.

This summer, after teaching aerobics for more than twenty years, George retired. He is still in excellent health – despite some daunting challenges in the past – but he felt that it was time to pursue other passions. I’ve written about George before. In addition to being a fitness instructor, he’s an artist and musician. He’s led a varied and fascinating life.

Those of us who’ve enjoyed George’s classes over the years gave him a little impromptu send-off during his last week. We wanted to thank him for the gifts of health, perseverance, optimism, and humor that he has given us (not to mention invaluable aid in maintaining a healthy weight, at least in my case – I dropped thirty-four pounds on the new regime and have kept it off for ten years.)

Oh – and the music! George took special care in his selection of songs for our workouts. One of his favorites – “Ooh, I love this song!” he would yell out with his customary glee – is “Someday I’m Coming Back.” Here it is, sung by Lisa Stansfield.

There was always plenty of ABBA:

For the cool down, there was often Rod Stewart and his great American songbook:

I’m especially grateful for this rendition of “Once in a While” by Johnny Mathis. And this video is such an affectionate tribute to a bygone era.

Sometimes, with the lights turned down low, we would soar into the stratosphere with the likes of Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman:


A member of our group came up with this graphic to commemorate the occasion:

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