About 18 years ago, a group of guys began working out together every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center. As the years have proceeded, the group has grown some and also lost some members, but the reasons its members meet remain constant: They do it to stay healthy, but also because The Rat Pack, as they're known, is about friendship and sharing life's good times and tough moments.
Who they are: Bernie Cohen, whom other members say is the "CEO" of the group, is also the unofficial historian. Cohen says The Rat Pack has lost two of its founding members to cancer, Sigmund (Siggy) Beer and Stanley Richmond, but the group now numbers 16 members. Most are in their 70s and 80s, but they've taken on a few younger Rat Packers over time, so there are now members in their 50s. They come from different walks of life — former engineers, businessmen, musicians and "drug dealers," says one, jokingly referring to pharmacists.
What they do: In the JCC's well-equipped gym, they spend a couple of hours doing whatever they like most — lifting weights, getting in some cardio.Then many of them continue their time together with lunch. Once a month, The Pack gets together for a special lunch at a restaurant, and members also meet at each others' homes for annual "cookouts and crustacean feasts," says Cohen. He adds that they also celebrate birthdays together, especially if those birthdays "end in a 5 or 0. " They've also gone to minor-league baseball games and once took a group excursion to Atlantic City.
Why they do it: Cohen says The Rat Packers know that exercise is important for overall health — that it reduces stress, increases strength and flexibility, and improves cardiovascular and lung capacity and brain function. But spend a few minutes with the guys and you'll know that the glue that keeps them together is their friendship. Ask them what they talk about when they get together, and they'll first say "the Orioles, the Ravens and politics," but in only a matter of minutes, they're cracking jokes and boasting about grandkids. As one explains, The Rat Pack is "good for your psyche."