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Paying It Forward for AL

Adolph “Al” Agonis was, by all accounts, quite a guy. So when his friends in the MS Wellness Program learned of his sudden passing at age 91 on October 2019, the loss was acutely felt. Gentle yet strong, kind and an inspiring “captain” of the MS Wellness group that gathers weekly in Good Shepherd’s Health & Technology Center, Al was so beloved that the group’s members wanted to pay tribute to him in a special way.

They did just that on Tuesday, February 19, when they gathered to award the first and newly-created Adolph “Al” Agonis Fitness Scholarship to fellow program participant Michael Brown. The scholarship took the form of a six-month membership to Optimal Fitness, Good Shepherd’s fitness center with the area’s only handicapped-accessible workout equipment.

Al was an avid member of Optimal Fitness. “I am really thankful for this,” said Michael. “I am going to make good use of it and I’m going to pay it forward.”

Al’s daughter, Christine Dakes, attributes much of her father’s longevity to his commitment to staying fit and offsetting the challenges of multiple sclerosis which he had since 1965. Al himself credited the gym for allowing him to maintain his independence. Funding for the scholarship was provided by the MS Wellness Program and Optimal Fitness. Christine also donated additional funds to continue the scholarship. 

The choice of Michael to receive the scholarship was especially fitting as both he and Al served in the United States Navy. Michael and Al met in the Optimal Fitness gym and developed a close camaraderie.

MS Wellness members further honored Al by collecting donations for a memorial brick at The National WWII museum in New Orleans. Al was so determined to serve his country, with the approval of his parents, he enlisted in the Navy at age fifteen and a half using the birth certificate of his late older brother named Albert. Al served from January 1944 to June 1946 as a naval armed guard, armed guard gunner and 20mm machine gun gunner. Later, as a civilian, he turned the skills honed in the Navy to competitive sharp shooting where he excelled.

“Knowing the man Al is, that really inspired me to be the man I am,” said Michael. “Working out keeps me staying independent. I don’t look at MS as a handicap, I look at it as an adjustment to a new way of living.”

Michael Brown