Grandmother Stops Fleeing Bad Guy

Iris Davis, Space Coast Bodybuilding Women’s Grand Master Champion, 2002 and 2003.
Driving at 75 mph, carrying high-caliber weapons and sporting a patent disregard for the consequences didn’t help two robbers escape their crime. Not when they ran afoul of petite 62-year-old Iris Davis, grandmother and bodybuilder. Davis, manager of All Space Storage, Cocoa, Fla., and her assistant manager Bobby Brozman were outside the facility watching the police try to impede a getaway car along U.S. 1. The suspects, careening from lane to lane and repeatedly crossing the median, were speeding south in the northbound lane. A crash was inevitable.

“Suddenly, bang, they smashed into an off-duty police car right outside my building in front of us,” Davis says. The robbers tried to escape, running by Brozman, who tripped one. Davis chased after the other, who turned on her. She reacted instinctively, she says. She grabbed his shirt, ripping it off and delaying him long enough for a police officer to catch him. “It all happened right in a split second,” she says.

Davis, who stands 5 feet 1 inch tall, weighs 100 pounds. She is also a champion bodybuilder who had the guts and determination to enter her first competition at 50.

Determined to Succeed

Davis’ determination not only extends to doing what is right in the split second it took to stop a criminal, but to all aspects of her life. She was always athletic, she says. Born in Dublin, Ireland, she and her friends walked and ran everywhere. When she was 15, her family moved to London, where she began weight training in her mid-30s. Often she was the sole female gym member. “There weren’t any role models for women in those days,” she says. “So I was on my own, usually working out with the guys.” She went dancing several times a week and was very athletic.

But at 45, Davis was struck down by myalgic encephalomyelitis, a virus that attacks the brain causing debilitating fatigue, acute muscle pain and memory impairment. She was paralyzed for five months and the prognosis was poor. The doctors said she’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, she says. But Davis was determined to fully restore her health, and two years later she walked through the doors of a fitness center.

Iris Davis, manager of All Space Storage, Cocoa, Fla., and assistant manager Bobby Brozman.

“When I went back to the gym I couldn’t lift a quarter of a pound,” she says. Driven, she turned to what she knew best—bodybuilding, with her regimen of weights and circuit training, aerobics and nutrition. “I am in pain every day, but if I’m going to be in pain, let it be from using my muscles, not from losing them,” she says of her illness.

Encouraged by other gym members, she entered her first bodybuilding contest in London at age 50. Although she was competing against 20- and 30- year-old women, the age difference didn’t intimidate her. She took second place. “I did it once, did well, and that was enough,” she says. “Or so I thought.”

No Retirement

In 1996, Davis and her husband moved to Florida where she continued weight training. She met bodybuilder Doug Chastain, who was looking for a woman partner to compete in the 2002 Florida State pairs division. “I hadn’t competed in seven years, but I eventually agreed,” she says. She won the mixed pairs with Chastain at the Space Coast Bodybuilding competition, as well as the women’s grand master’s title. She was 57 and the oldest woman in the show. The same year she took eight more first places, and several seconds and thirds.

Davis won the women’s title again in 2003. Since then, she’s earned nine championship titles and several second-and third-place finishes. Last August, she won her final title, the Women’s Over 30 in Daytona Beach, Fla. In 2002, she was awarded two Presidential Fitness Awards—one for fitness walking and one for weightlifting.

Davis retired from competition last year, but not from the fitness life. She is a National Physique Committee judge and personal trainer, counting a champion among her students. “Keeping fit has been such a part of my life for so long I don’t see myself stopping.”

Although she no longer flexes her muscles on stage, Davis still works out to maintain her physical and mental well-being. Her daunting training regimen begins after nine hours at work. She spends 1.5 hours every day at the gym followed by a six-mile walk. Once a week she exercises for two to three hours to develop her legs. “It’s not just about lifting weights,” she says. “It’s about eating right and thinking right.”

Loving Her Job

With her focus on fitness, don’t imagine Davis watches the clock at work and counts the minutes until she can start pumping iron at the gym. She says she loves her job at All Space.

Heroes Bobby Brozman and Iris Davis in the lobby of All Space Storage, Cocoa, Fla.

Davis has been working for All Space Storage for 10 years, starting part-time when the facility had only 60 units. Since then, the store has grown to nearly 800 tenants and incorporates a U-Haul truck-rental section. Davis gradually took on more responsibility and now runs the facility. “My job is to do the absolute best I can for my employer so he doesn’t have a worry,” she says. But that also includes doing right for the tenants.

Facility owner Robert Brozman describes Davis as an “employer’s dream.” She has an over-abundance of confidence and a take-charge attitude, he says. He praises her acute business sense and consulted her when he was planning to add another building. “She soon became the force behind my facility.”

Brozman notes Davis’s affinity with people and her professional and courteous manner. When she helps tenants choose a unit that is right for them, it may not be the largest one. Tenants often return to the facility years later because of the treatment they received from Davis, he says. He is not shy to credit All Space’s success to Davis.

Davis doesn’t consider her age a factor in how she lives her life. “There’s no such thing as age,” she says. “I have a fierce pride in myself that leaves me with a desire to succeed.” 

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