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Shamrock Run veteran makes 25th appearance

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He's not Irish, but at 89 years of age, Warren R. Bonney, Watertown, has earned a place in the Shamrock Run Hall of Fame.

Mr. Bonney, who has Scottish and English ancestry, has been running in the race since it began 25 years ago.

He completed the 2.2-mile course on Saturday with his daughter, Ann L. Bonney, who visited from Connecticut.

It was only the most recent race in a life filled with sports and physical activity ranging from running and skiing to sailing and kayaking.

He said he had the inspiration to start exercising when he found his first job after college driving long distances as a salesman was having an adverse effect on his health, even with competitive sailing on the weekends.

“It was all sitting down,” he said.

So he decided, along with some friends, including longtime Watertown runners Michael J. Burns and William A. Chapin, to start one of the first running and triathlon groups in the area during the 1970s.

Asked if the club was competitive, Mr. Bonney smiled and said, “I'd say yes.”

With such formidable talent at the helm, it's hard to imagine otherwise. But Mr. Bonney said some of the fiercest competition came from the nearby military post.

“Some of the best triathlons, though, are with Fort Drum. Some of those soldiers are in pretty good shape,” he said.

As an avid skier in high school, Mr. Bonney was able to jump on the varsity team at Syracuse University, where he competed in downhill, cross country, ski jumping and slalom events.

“At Syracuse they told me to stick to college, don't do all these sports, but I found my grades were higher when I was doing sports,” he said.

His skills on the slopes made him an ideal candidate for Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division, which started as an experiment to train skiers to fight in mountainous terrain in Europe and suffered heavy losses during a series of assaults against the German army in the northern Apennine Mountains of Italy.

Mr. Bonney narrowly avoided that fate.

Instead of heading to Italy, “the Navy gave me another year of college and gave me apprentice pay, put me in officer's training and told me, 'You'll be an ensign within a year's time.'”

He served as an ensign aboard LSM, or “Landing Ship Medium,” vessels stationed in the Pacific Ocean during World War II.

Alternately filling the roles of gunnery, supply and communications officer, Mr. Bonney was often hopping off the ship on different islands to discharge his duties.

He jokingly boasted he saw just about every island the U.S. landed on during the war, including some where the “roads” were really “just pathways through the jungle.”

In addition to running, Mr. Bonney has volunteered for at least three ski patrols for several years.

His volunteer hours meant free season passes for the whole family. They skied every weekend, Ms. Bonney said. “It was very nice.”

Mr. Bonney hasn't let his advanced years slow him down, going cross-country skiing just two weeks ago with his daughter.

He credited his health to his exercise regimen and his diet and said his mother, who was a dietitian, helped set him down the right path.

“My father died at 63 because he was a heavy smoker,” he said. “My mother was against smoking and drinking.”

Always ahead of his time, Mr. Bonney took multivitamins and ate a vegetarian diet long before those practices became fashionable and still sticks to a strict regimen with lots of whole fruits and vegetables, including raw pineapple, which he said helps alleviate his arthritis.

Ms. Bonney said her father's forward thinking found its way into other aspects of their family life as well.

“We were some of the first people in Watertown to have seat belts,” she said.

His ski-patrol experience no doubt informing his safety consciousness, Mr. Bonney got the seat belts from the airport and installed them in the family car.

And he patrols the halls at the Ives Hill Retirement Village, where he now lives.

“I have no authority there, but they don't complain that I do a door check every night,” he said.

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