Jeff Ellis works out at LA Fitness in Troy.
Jeff Ellis works out at LA Fitness in Troy. (Mike Hartman)

Ellis will become the first powerlifter to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Jeff Ellis is a Michigan Senior Olympics superstar, colon cancer survivor and the definition of determination.

The 63-year-old West Bloomfield resident has won 19 gold medals in powerlifting (bench press) in the 21 times he’s competed in the Michigan Senior Olympics since 2009, the same year a colonoscopy led to the discovery of a carcinoid tumor and later four lesions.

One of 19 Michigan Senior Olympics gold medals Jeff Ellis has won in powerlifting.
One of 19 Michigan Senior Olympics gold medals Jeff Ellis has won in powerlifting.

Ellis underwent two complicated surgeries in 2010 at the Cleveland Clinic and has been cancer-free since then.

A 5-foot-9, 194-pounder, Ellis holds two Michigan Senior Olympics records for powerlifting, both in the 198-pound division — he lifted 281.1 pounds in the 55-59 age group in 2018 and 270.1 pounds in the 60-64 age group in 2019.

Ellis will join a select group next month when he’s inducted into the Michigan Senior Olympics Hall of Fame.

When the four-member 2022 Hall of Fame class is inducted Aug. 20 at the annual Michigan Senior Olympics Celebration of Athletes and Hall of Fame Awards Dinner, that will raise the number of inductees to just 30 since the Hall of Fame was founded in 2014.

Ellis will become the first powerlifter to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame, and he’ll be the youngest, if not one the youngest, inductees at the time of induction.

Getting into the Hall of Fame is something Ellis has craved.

He was nominated a few years ago by his friend, fellow 1977 Southfield High School graduate and former Michigan State University roommate Mike Mervis, a Michigan Senior Olympics racewalker.

Ellis got the call he’d been waiting for July 15 from Michigan Senior Olympics executive director Becky Ridky while taking a break from a work meeting in Ann Arbor.

Ellis is a certified public accountant and the managing partner of a firm that has offices in Troy and Ann Arbor. He was meeting with clients in Ann Arbor when Ridky called him.

“I was on Cloud Nine when Becky told me I’d been accepted into the Hall of Fame,” Ellis said. “It took me a while to refocus when I got back into the meeting, which went on for another two hours.

“I sent out a few texts during the meeting letting people know about me getting into the Hall of Fame, but I couldn’t start making calls until afterward.”

It’s not easy to get into the Michigan Senior Olympics Hall of Fame.

Among the eligibility requirements are being a Michigan Senior Olympics athlete, board member or volunteer for at least seven years and, for an athlete, winning “numerous gold medals in Michigan Senior Olympics competitions.”

Nominations are reviewed by the Michigan Senior Olympics executive director and board of directors before going to a selection committee of three people chosen annually by the board. Two of three selection committee members must approve an individual’s induction.

There are only supposed to be three Hall of Fame inductees each year, but there were five in 2014 and there are four this year.

“There were four great candidates this year. The selection committee didn’t want to exclude one of them,” Ridky said.

While the 19 gold medals are nice, especially because Ellis has had to overcome several injuries to get them, it’s the relationships that Ellis cherishes most from his Michigan Senior Olympics career.

“I’ve made some great friends among the competitors,” he said. “We’re always comparing notes on things like workouts, injuries, recovering from injuries.

“People have asked me if I’m going to stop lifting now that I’ve made it into the Hall of Fame. No. I’m going to keep doing it because of the health benefits and the discipline that’s needed.

“When you’ve done something for 45 years, it’s addictive.”

Ellis was a champion weightlifter at Michigan State.

While he continued to lift weights, he stopped competing in weightlifting after graduating from Michigan State so he could focus on his accounting career.

He learned about the Michigan Senior Olympics and its powerlifting event when he turned 50 and decided to give it a try.

The rest is history.

Ellis hopes to add another Michigan Senior Olympics gold medal to his collection Oct. 15 at the next powerlifting competition.

Before that, he’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 5 p.m. Aug. 20 celebration at the Oakland Center on the Oakland University campus in Rochester.

The evening will include a buffet dinner, cash bar, silent auction and talk by two-time NBA champion Earl Cureton, Detroit Pistons community ambassador.

Cost is $37. To purchase tickets, call the Michigan Senior Olympics office in Rochester at (248) 608-0250.

Ellis and his wife, Lori, have been married for 39 years. They have two children, Michelle, 34, and Josh, 31, and a grandson Nolan, 15 months. 

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