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Remembering Arnie

Arno L. Jensen, MD (1929-2009)

  

Our dear friend Arnie Jensen passed away January 23, 2009, after a long battle with melanoma, a form of skin cancer. He was 79.

My book Great Expectations is dedicated to Arnie, “who introduced me to the Cooper Clinic, the world leader in preventive medicine, and became my friend. He practices what he preaches, and has the highest expectations for his patients and himself.”

Arnie practiced medicine for 20 years and opened the first Nautilus Fitness Center in Iowa before joining the Cooper Clinic in Dallas as a consultant in radiology and preventive medicine. He was largely responsible for introducing strength training at the Cooper Clinic. Thanks to Arnie, the Cooper Wellness Program now includes strength training along with aerobics; their onsite Fitness Centers now includes fabulous weight training areas.

Arnie invited me to the Cooper Clinic for testing in 1988, when I was 50, and continued to see me free of charge for the next 15 years. I’ll never forget our first face-to-face meeting. It was in the Albuquerque Sunport. He had flown in to spend a few days with Carol and me before we went to the Dallas for my first exam. When we made eye contact, he smiled broadly, lengthened his stride, and extended his hand to me. It was like meeting an old friend--a very fit old friend. Arnie was 59 at the time. 

I learned how fit the next day when we climbed to the top of the mountain above our home. It’s about 30 minutes from our front door to the top. The climb starts easy with a gradual grade, and then gets steeper and steeper. It’s practically straight up at the end. I had made the climb many times, and it was always a major effort to get to the top without stopping. About half way up, your legs are burning and your heart is pounding—and it only gets worse.

Arnie, of course, was going up for the first time—and was not acclimated to our mile-high altitude. Nevertheless, he stayed on my heels all the way. We were both puffing and panting like steam engines, but he never faltered and never complained. Some years later he admitted that he was sure glad to see the top. At the time, however, he never said a word.

What I didn’t know is that he held the record on the dreaded Cooper Clinic treadmill test. As David Prokop later wrote in Muscle & Fitness: “[He] held the Cooper Clinic treadmill record for his age group three separate times - his best time on the treadmill is 32 minutes.” http://cbass.com/COOPER.HTM

As I was soon to learn, 32 minutes borders on the surreal. I tried for years, and never went over 29 minutes. When I wrote that Arnie practices what he preaches, it was true in spades. He continued to teach and inspire healthy living until just a few weeks before his death. He practiced medicine for over 53 years. 

Arnie was the most positive, upbeat person I’ve ever known. I talked with him many times during his three-year fight with melanoma, the most deadly of all skin cancers, and he never failed to tell me how good he was feeling, and how well his training was going. When his oncologist wanted to carve the cancer out of his arm, he told him to take all the fat he wanted but not to touch the muscle. He had worked too hard to get that, he said.

Further evidence of the kind of man he was and the life he led is the fact that the majority of his five children (2 sons and one daughter, I believe) choose to follow in his footsteps and became doctors. He was very proud that his oldest son, Dave, was his boss during his final years of practice, at the Mayo Clinic.

Arnie will never be forgotten by those of us who loved him.

Carol and I offer our sincerest sympathy to his wife Joan, his children, grandchildren, other family members, and his many friends.

To learn more about Arnie’s wonderful life, read the obituary in his hometown newspaper, the Charles City Press:  http://www.charlescitypress.com/obituaries/x1278519470/Arno-Lee-Jensen-M-D

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