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Pearl of Muscatine: Caleen Pagel

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A physical therapist, Caleen Pagel knew nothing about tai chi when she signed up for a class in 2002. Intrigued, she delved deeper, working up to leading classes. 18 years later, Pagel continues to spread the benefits and joy of tai chi.

Pagel led her first class in Weed Park as a program sponsored by the Musser Public Library. Soon after, Pagel started offering lunchtime classes. When Muscatine debuted its Blue Zones project, Pagel found herself in high demand, teaching tai chi everywhere from city hall to small businesses.

At one time, Muscatine High School girls’ cross country and track coach Tim Armstrong invited Pagel to do tai chi with his team, providing a different sort of conditioning. As more schools showed interest in tai chi, Pagel offered classes to at-risk students at Jefferson elementary and later to all their students.

Today, Pagel keeps bringing tai chi to the community to promote focus, balance, strength, and well-being. Through flowing, dance-like motions, people can build physical and mental skills. “The cool thing about it is that it’s slow, but that’s the challenging part,” she shared.

Pagel currently leads tai chi classes on Tuesdays at noon at the library, Wednesdays at 12:15 pm at Faith United Church in the winter and Discovery Park the rest of the year, and on Thursdays at 8:30 am, also at the library. All free, Pagel encourages everyone to attend.

For Pagel, taking just one tai chi class changed her life. However, she finds small events lead to remarkable outcomes. In fact, Pagel met her husband, Pat, that way when visiting Muscatine to skate at the local roller rink and saw him there.

This brief meeting brought Pagel to Muscatine and to a place she truly felt at home. “I enjoy the fact that it’s a small-town atmosphere, she shared. “I love the people here, and my husband grew up here. These are his roots. Mine are in Western Iowa, but this feels like home,” she added. An inspiration to many, Pagel has found a home and a place as a Pearl of Muscatine.

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