Manny Hershkowitz is always moving.
In his Reston condominium, he bounces from the kitchen to the dining room to the patio and back again. Once outside, he might dart off to the local track to run some wind sprints, or perhaps to the country club for a round of golf.
"C'mon," he says often in his Brooklyn drawl, "let's go!"
It's not surprising, then, that Hershkowitz was the kind of energetic, athletic person tapped to be a "ball boy" at last month's U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York.
What's surprising is that he was 82 years old when he did it.
"The other guys were all shocked," Hershkowitz recalled. "They didn't think I had the ability to do it."
The feat made Hershkowitz the oldest ball boy ever to work the venerable Open. He also fetched stray shots at two Washington contests earlier in the year: the Sprint PCS Champions tournament and the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
But Hershkowitz is also an accomplished senior athlete in his own right, with a hefty pile of silver and gold medals to prove it. Even more remarkable, he has continued his regimen of exercise and competition despite a yearlong battle with prostate cancer, now in remission.
"My whole idea is to help the public image of seniors," said Hershkowitz, dipping a toasted bagel into a steaming cup of coffee at his kitchen table. "Look at that movie 'Grumpy Old Men.' Disgusting! They think we're grumpy, that we stumble over ourselves, that we're buffoons. It's just not true."
Hershkowitz, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., spent most of his adult life tirelessly working his way up in the New York City fur business, sometimes working two jobs to help support the three children he raised with his wife, Ruth, a schoolteacher.
A quarter-century ago, the couple decided to move to Northern Virginia to be near their grandchildren. Hershkowitz worked as a furniture salesman at Bloomingdale's before retiring at 68.
He hasn't slowed down since--and he always plays to win.
"I think a game is just a game, just for fun," said Ruth Hershkowitz, 79, his wife of 56 years. "He plays for blood. It doesn't matter if it's tennis or playing gin in front of the TV at night."
Most days, Manny Hershkowitz plans an athletic pursuit: a game of tennis, a round of golf, a morning of running at a local school's track. Starting with a hurdle race in 1986, Hershkowitz also has been entering competitions for more than a decade.
The ball-boy idea came to him after he read about last May's Sprint PCS Champions tournament in Washington. It's a seniors tournament, he thought, so why not a senior ball boy? (The highlight, according to Hershkowitz, was when tennis legend John McEnroe affectionately called him an "old fart.")
From there, Hershkowitz went on to Legg Mason and, at the last minute, to the U.S. Open, where he worked one set of a match between two junior players. The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the Open, arranged a special tryout for Hershkowitz in order to get him in, officials said.
"We already had all the ball people we needed, but this was an extraordinary circumstance," said Randy Walker, a spokesman for the USTA. "He wasn't the best ball-person, but he was certainly good enough. We figured, what the heck, let's put him in a junior match. . . . He's an amazing guy."
With three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandsons, Hershkowitz has no intention of slowing down. At next month's U.S. Senior Games in Orlando, he will compete in two sprint races, two tennis matches and--"just for fun"--a horseshoe competition.
"I'm a very competitive person. It's just my personality," Hershkowitz said. "The key word is active: You have to stay active physically, or mentally, or both. You stay younger that way. Otherwise, what's the point?"
CAPTION: Manny Hershkowitz tosses a ball to Yen-Hsun Lu, of Taiwan, during the match between Lu and Lesley Joseph, of the United States, at the U.S. Open on Sept. 6 in New York. Hershkowitz is also an accomplished athlete.
CAPTION: Manny Hershkowitz with a photo of himself in a 1986 broad-jump contest.