Mature Adults... Quality Years, Quality Life

Published on Thu, Feb 7, 2008
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Mature Adults... Quality Years, Quality Life

The young at heart have happy, tapping feet

By Jack Kintner

Kelly Henson-Renoud had a dilemma: she needed to exercise but running was chewing up her joints and she hated going to exercise gyms.

She found the answer in tap dancing. Since she owns her own dance studio, the Blaine Conservatory on H Street, she hired Amanda Shcroer of Lynden to teach and signed up for a group lesson and a private lesson each week.

“This is amazingly fun to do,” gushed Henson-Renoud. “The gym was torture, but this is really fun.”

Currently one adult (over 18) class is offered Fridays at 5 p.m. Others may be added as time permits.

The cost is $39 monthly for weekly one-hour classes. The current class is all women, Henson-Renoud said, “but we did have one delightful gentleman, 89 years old, who stuck with it until his doctor advised him not to jump around so much. We hated to lose him.”

Henson-Renoud said she encourages people to come and observe in stocking feet before they invest in tap shoes that can cost from $40 to $70 and up. The studio features a suspended professional dance floor that absorbs the shock of dancing, and has a non-skid surface.

“This is not hip-hop,” Henson-Renoud said, “but good old-fashioned tap, like Gene Kelley and Fred Astaire did to swing music of the 40s and 50s. We play a lot of Harry Connick, Jr., show tunes, that kind of thing.”

On May 25, which Bill “Bojangles” Robinson designated many years ago as National Tap Day, the class will perform at the St. Francis Extended Care Center in Bellingham.

“The girls are nervous, but we’re having fun getting ready for that one. It should be a kick.”

Well-traveled coordinator is happy to be in Blaine

By Jack Kintner

Barbara Fischer is the new senior services coordinator at the Blaine Senior Center. Fischer, 47, started her work here in August after a stint as a nursing home administrator in San Diego. Single, she’s engaged to a pilot she met down south but would only say that they haven’t yet set a date.

The ebullient Fischer is a native of Evansville, Indiana, and a graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington.

She’s the youngest of four and the only girl. “My brothers named me for the baby sitter,” she laughed. She’s lived in Aspen, Colorado, Hawaii and Texas.

“Traveling was a big part of my life,” she said, “but now I’m happy to be here with my fiancee Brad and our puppy, a lab/German Shepherd mix named Eddie.”

She has stories of meeting celebrities like Bill Murray in Aspen.

“I was out of my element there as a part of a physical education internship at the Aspen Club and Sports Medicine Institute.”

As a midwesterner she remembers being deeply impressed with the beauty of a range of mountains called the Maroon Bells and Aspen leaves glittering in the fall.

Fischer will oversee some changes in the senior center. To build participation she wants to increase the space devoted to the senior exercise program, now housed in a small room that formerly was devoted to crafts and card tournaments.

Several state-of-the-art exercise machines, paid for several years ago by a grant from the Boeing Employees Credit Union, can be used for free by senior center members once they have taken a class to learn how to use them, but the small size of the room in which they’re placed limits the number of people who can use them at the same time safely.

Fischer said that the local board of directors that runs the senior center program wants the exercise equipment moved into a larger space now devoted to three pool tables because they feel that over time it will be a more popular program with seniors and will draw more people.

The move will be February 28 and 29, and the redecorating will be completed by mid-March.

“I’m excited about all that because we’re picking out paint colors and furniture,” she said, “and will be looking at buying some more equipment.”

She added that maintenance for the gym facilities is covered by $1 to $2 donation per use.

“I know that the move won’t be popular with everyone, but there’s room for three tables in the exercise room, and it makes sense to make the switch as a better deployment of our resources,” she said. The larger space would also allow for floor exercising.

Fischer said that she’s inherited a “great staff,” including long-time cook Francis Jordan and board president Bud Powell. “The food here is really good,” Fischer expounded, “and it’s because of Francis. In many places like this, the food is produced in one central place and shipped out, but having Francis here really gives this place a homey kind of touch.”

Fischer said that Powell is a delight to have on the board. “When something needs to happen, if he hears about it then it get done,” she said.

Fischer said she really likes the way in which having food prepared at the senior center enhances the experience.

She is working with a committee with the non-profit Whatcom County Council on Aging to help ensure funding for their nutrition program that provides cooks, food and a nutritional programs at eight senior centers, including Blaine, that will help provide a balanced diet for seniors who may not be getting enough at home.

Meals are $6 per person but donations are accepted.

A lifetime of rich experiences

Wednesday mornings Kay Dee Powell facilitates a gathering at the Blaine Senior Center. Most are retired folks who write, often about their lives and sometimes what they think of the world around them. The Northern Light from time to time will publish some of their work with a glimpse of the author.

Ralph Parlin of Blaine enjoys driving his RV to visit friends and family, and writing about growing up on a Maine farm and life in a one-room schoolhouse. He also is writing a history of his time in the Navy when as a skilled petty officer he operated radar on airplanes that flew into typhoons.

Toni Peller, a Blaine Senior Center volunteer, delights in growing flowers in her Blaine yard, especially Dahlias, but she plays no favorites. She is immersed in a project that will turn her original log book into a yarn about the three years she spent under sail from England to Honolulu almost 50 years ago, providing, of course, she can take time from her work with local theater, bowling and a cancer support campaign.

Hester was no lady

By Ralph Parlin

My first mistake was stripping down the machine guns before we landed after a routine anti-sub patrol from Guam in 1954. One of the two barrels slipped loose and landed on the toe of the pilot who at the time was walking through the airplane’s cabin. The second mistake was laughing like the navigator who was an officer. I wasn’t and the next morning I was on my way to the Philippines. The airplane and the job didn’t change, but we had no guns and no armor. Instead of subs, my new unit hunted typhoons.

I was assigned to the crew of the pilot who commanded the 12 airplanes that made up the squadron. He told me my job was to find the eye of the typhoon and then we would go in at 5,000 feet to take scientific measurements. The eye was calm and sometimes there was sunshine, but you bounced all over the sky getting in and out. One time there was a bounce that it flipped the radio operator’s typewriter to the floor.

Flights were usually 14 to 18 boring hours but one morning we were sent to find a killer named Hester, a typhoon ships told us was between the Philippines and Iwo Jima. Four hours out I got a picture of it on my radar, just as the winds started moving the plane around. We went in at 5,000 feet. The pilot was yelling at me to find the eye but my radar wouldn’t penetrate the clouds. The plane was up and down, suddenly at 10,000 feet, just as suddenly I could see the tops of waves, above my window.

Then it was back up, and down, and the pilot and copilot just didn’t have the physical strength to pull back the yoke to make the plane climb. It took emergency measures, a huge drain on our fuel, before we could escape Hester’s 230 knot winds. That was the limit of our instruments, but probably not the winds.

Finally, the plane began to climb and as we escaped the typhoon the pilot told the navigator we didn’t have much fuel so find the closest air field. It was Iwo Jima and as we taxied in, all four engines quit. Our fuel was gone.

It didn’t take long to find the airfield’s club where we could toast our good luck. Some of the crew toasted all night. Me? I was beat and my face was black and blue from the pounding it had taken as the storm banged me against the conical radar hood. I found our Quonset hut and slept.

Hester was the worst typhoon I ever experienced and the first one where I really didn’t believe I was going to get out alive. I talked to God and had a smile on my face as I said I didn’t mind dying because he had been very good to me up to that point. Then I honestly heard him say, “Don’t worry, Ralph, you will be okay.” I’ve had complete faith in God ever since.

Now, I’ve never met a woman named Hester, but, trust me, if I do, I’ll be heading the other way.

(Ralph’s time in the military, 21 years, was shared by the Navy and Air Force. His current project is remembering his years as an Air Force Master Sergeant, and some episodes as an off-duty entrepreneur.)

Bustling times in the flower bed

By Toni Peller

Look back, something is going on in your flowerbed. They have personalities and lives of their own, you know. I’ve checked. One day I found my Sweet Peas intertwined and annoying the Lilac bushes who indignantly told them to stay in their own beds and stop trying to climb and cling to everything around them.

Snap Dragons, always a trifle cranky and crabby, snap at anything that annoys them, which is almost everything. Their narrow eyes watch the Sweet Peas who try to sneak around in back of them and wind their way up their stems. I thought it best to ever so gently separate the sweet pea tendrils from them before anyone got hurt.

The Roses in the next bed, an uppity group, were not amused by the shenanigans next door. They wanted nothing to do with them since they only associate with their own class of flowers. Their thorns were at the ready if any other flower attempted any funny business with them.

own the path a bit stood the very tall Hollyhocks who being a rather rowdy bunch didn’t mind what was going on as long as they could maybe help and abet the instigator. I knew they were somewhat of a bad example to each other and those around them. They are a quite ill-mannered and rude lot.

Standing stiffly nearby the Gladiolas, regal and gorgeous, were snubbing them all, pretending they were the only flowers in the garden. Terrible snobs.

Pretty little blue Forget-Me-Nots who never remembered where they were supposed to live popped up here and there, sometimes beyond the garden and into the yard.

That of course pained and frustrated the Impatiens who, of course, have no patience with anyone who doesn’t stay in neat, orderly rows like them.

Now the Dahlias and Asters were busy gossiping down by the garden fence. The scoop was that someone saw Miss Marigold out on a date with that young, handsome Mr. Dandy Lion who was from the wrong side of the fence. All the “tisking” and “tutting” was a terrible blow to poor Miss Marigold’s reputation. The ladies said it was too bad that she dumped that nice, personable Sweet William for an upstart of a weed.

The Petunia family was angry and upset by where they had been moved. They now lived next to the fence and on the other side was a bed of planted onions. The Petunias no longer had visitors and all they could do was cry all day.

Miss Daisy was busy telling fortunes for the old maid Iris sisters on whether they would ever know if someone would love them, or love them not.

With all this going on it was so refreshing to see the Pansy family with their sweet little faces beaming with kindness and good will, trying so hard to get everyone to be nice and love one another. But, I’m afraid that, just as it is with us humans, is an impossible task.

(Toni’s imagination is as rich as the colors in her flower garden and when she has moments to herself she contemplates murder, mysterious, foul murder. But it’s only in her mind, and in a tale she’s writing about…oh, shhh, it’s a mystery.)