Member Profile: Howard Mansfield & Sy Montgomery

Wellness Center membership is a couple’s affair for Sy Montgomery and Howard Mansfield, two Hancock residents who became members the minute the Center was opened more than 11 years ago.Howard’s occupational hazard as a writer, as it is for so many people, is sitting all day. He generally spends his day at two or three different desks, but knows his Wellness Center work will keep him from getting too “creaky.” Ultimately, he said, he wants to continue to be able to “tie his sneakers and then to stand up.”Between the two of them, they’ve written so many books that it’s hard for them to recall the exact number. Howard concentrates on architecture, preservation and history, with “In the Memory House” as one of his recent titles. He thinks his total is eight books on his own; many more in collaboration with others. (See’s latest book total is 15, with a couple more on their way soon. (See When you take a look at her list of titles, you’ll understand why this author says she must stay fit for her job. She’s been known to swim with piranhas, ride elephants, deal with high altitudes, and the lowlands of the desert in her research treks to write about the wildlife that fascinates her and her readers. “It’s just part of my job,” she said. “I was delighted when the place opened.”Howard and Sy are also the proud owners of border collie, Sally, who requires them to stay fit because she just loves to hike and kayak.

Sy says she just loves the fitness classes and gravitates toward the fast-paced, dancing ones, such as Zumba. “For me it’s like dancing in the basement with your best girlfriends,” she said. “Your friends are there. You feel like you’re 14. The instructors are just the best.”

While Sy has tried just about every type of class offered, Howard is a devotee of the fitness machines and works with one of the Wellness Center’s personal trainers to change things up every couple of months. He really enjoyed the rowing machines to loosen up painfully tight hamstrings. Currently he uses the elliptical machine and runs on the treadmills, but his favorite is the video-equipped stationary bike that lets him ride a virtual course and compete with others.

Both Howard and Sy try to make it into the Wellness Center at least three times a week and they change it around in the summer when the weather’s nice. When Sy sustained an ankle injury out walking Sally in Hancock one spring, she ended up on crutches. Then she enlisted two of the Wellness Center’s personal trainers to get her back on track.

She need to be in top condition for her next adventure–searching for snow leopards in the Altai Mountains of the Gobi of Mongolia, and it entailed hiking every day, all day, sometimes to 11,000 feet, over knife-edged ridges. “Getting that ankle to recover was almost a full-time job,” she said. The trek ended in her book “Saving the Ghost of the Mountain.”

Howard, 54, and Sy, 53, both find the inspiration to stay fit from other Wellness Center members and those out in the community. Howard tells the story of watching a 70 year-old strap on his ice skates and tackle the ice on Dublin Lake last winter. “I want to be that guy on the ice,” he said.

Sy wants to keep doing what she’s doing forever. “There are so many animals and so little time,” she explains. “Ultimately, I need to get to the naked mole rat in Namibia.”

The Wellness Center provides a great connection to the community in a profession that can otherwise be pretty isolating.

Sy says, “Everybody here, from the person at the desk to the person who cleans the locker room, makes you feel so cared for and they’re so friendly…”

Howard interrupts Sy, “And the locker room doesn’t smell like a locker room. And we get to meet and talk to an awful lot of fascinating people.”

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