95-year-old man celebrates birthday with his love of roller skating

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 11:03 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It isn’t very often in this world that you meet someone like Gene Elliott.

The great-great-grandfather isn’t content with having a quiet birthday party. In fact he decided to go where he’s been going for 90 years – to the skating rink.

If Skateland USA in Hickory had a wall of fame, Gene Elliott would have earned his place at the top of the pack.

“You want the skate to fit very snug.” Elliot said strapping on his skate.

Elliott has been lacing up the skates since he was five years old - 90 years ago. For perspective, Calvin Coolidge was in office.

Elliott has been coming to this rink for decades, even worked here as a manager back in the 70s. He says a lot has changed since then, especially the music.

“Many, many years ago we were skating to organ music. And there was someone sitting there playing the organ and you would holler to them and say would you mind playing so and so? And all those little organ numbers you could just sorta move along.” Elliott said.

The organist would eventually play Amazing Grace, a song Elliott says isn’t the easiest to skate to. He says he’s more of a disco man himself. Bee Gees, Any Gibb. When he’s not out navigating the crowds you can find him dancing near the rails.

Elliott wasn’t always this happy. He lost his beloved wife about 15 years ago.

“Married 57 years and I never met anyone who could take her place,” Elliott said.

He hit a dark place and spent most of his time at home. He credits this sport for bringing his back.

“So, I came back over here and that got me started I was eighty years old. I just picked up and continued to come.” Elliott told WBTV’s Ron Lee.

Now, he’s got five generations that have picked up his love of skating.

“My daughter roller skates, my son roller skates. We’re just a roller skating family,” Elliott said.

But Thursday night isn’t just about skating, it’s about celebrating. Elliott turns 95 years old, and what better place to bring family and friends than to his favorite skating rink. And still impressing people, including Kenneth Rhodes, who worked with Elliott as a manager here in the seventies.

“Its amazing he’s still skating like he is,” Rhodes said.

But he’s always found a way to do what he loves the most. Even when COVID-19 hit, employees would invite him down for a solo-skate.

“So he would come every week and skate for an hour, hour and a half.” said the rink manager Donna Rhodes.

Now, like the wise old Yoda from Star Wars, he wants to pass his knowledge onto the next generation.

“Give me five minutes, 10 minutes in that little game room over here, and I’ll teach you how to skate,” Elliott said.

And if you’re wondering just how long he can keep this up, he’s already looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday doing what he loves.

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