Jim Tait (center) with his family in the ring. (Photo courtesy of Waltonwood Ashburn.)

Waltonwood Ashburn resident Jim Tait has taken a few punches, inside and outside of a boxing ring.

Life threw him a haymaker in 1954 when a motorcycle accident almost took away his ability to walk. The doctors told him he’d never walk again. Not only did he learn how to walk again, he was later named 1956 Washington, DC, Golden Gloves welterweight champion. 

After a 70-year hiatus, Tait, who lives with Parkinson’s disease, recently returned to the ring in a sparring session at Title Boxing Club in Ashburn through Waltonwood’s Adventure by Waltonwood program. His entire family was there to support him, including his daughters, who also were students in his self-defense course. 

“[Jim’s] daughter, Terri, said, ‘My dad taught me how to shield with my left hand and punch with my right.’” said Rachel Reed, the memory care life enrichment manager at the Ashburn, VA, senior living community. “So he taught his girls. That’s pretty modern.”

In his recent bout, Tait had a formidable opponent to spar with: 13-time world champion Tori Nelson. The event almost did not happen when Tait developed some cold feet, but Reed eventually was able to encourage him to continue. 

“When they asked if he wanted to hop up there, he replied with a loud, ‘No!’ and then walked in the opposite direction.” Reed said. “But I had a trick up my sleeve. I walked over to him and said, ‘They don’t want you to fight anyone, Jim. They just want you to help check out the flooring. Walk around with me and let them know if it feels the same as it did back then.’ That seemed reasonable to him, and we proceeded.”

After getting a few jabs in, Tait was joined by his family in the ring. Although his boxing career may have been cut short, Tait never needed to fill a trophy case with titles to become a winner. His career winnings are always within eyesight in his room. 

“He’s looking at pictures of his family and pictures of his beautiful wife and kids,” Reed said. “They’re adorning his walls like wallpaper. They’re looking at him every day.”

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