Essex seniors party like it's 2006

Procrastinator's party prolongs New Year's Eve

January 06, 2007|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,Sun Reporter

It was not the typical New Year's Eve bash. The ad promised the chance to dance the day away, and the revelers did, clapping and swinging their hips. They burst into "Auld Lang Syne" at noon. And the celebration occurred five days into the new year.

Welcome to the Procrastinator's New Year's Eve Party at the Essex Senior Center. Most of the people shimmying to "Roll out the Barrel" yesterday were asleep at midnight on New Year's Eve.

But catch them on a Friday afternoon, and it is a different story: They know how to party.

"You do not let it get you down," Dorothy Heinle, 81, said of old age.

The crowd went wild when Heinle and her husband, Charles, 85, pranced into the hall dressed as the old year and the new. She wore a long white nightgown, pearls and a sash painted "2006." He was a baby, dressed in a white turtleneck and shorts, a yellow plastic derby and a "2007" sash.

"I tried to get him to put on a diaper," Dorothy Heinle said with a wink.

The crowd tooted horns, cranked noisemakers and snapped photos as the couple jitterbugged. The Heinles, longtime Essex residents who now live in White Marsh, have been married for 61 years. In the old days, they used to spend New Year's Eve dancing at the Alcazar Hotel or Keith's Roof in Baltimore.

This year, they spent the holiday at the American Turner's Hall in Essex, but were eager to celebrate again yesterday. After two years of battling bladder cancer and complications of diabetes, Dorothy Heinle's health has finally improved. Now the couple is looking forward to spending more time walking and volunteering at the senior center.

The holidays can be rough for seniors, said center director Kathleen Young. Those who have lost spouses might feel their absence more keenly. Children and grandchildren come to visit, then busy themselves in work again, leaving older relatives alone.

The senior center hosts a dance nearly every month, Young said. It is a chance for people to get dressed up, see friends and get some exercise. The week between Christmas and New Year's is generally quiet at the center, so Young planned the party for the first Friday of 2007.

More than 60 seniors paid a small cover charge to attend the festivities. They counted down to noon and cheered as they watched a recording of the ball dropping in Times Square.

Wearing a sparkly red blouse, 85-year-old Ruth Shaw of Essex belted out "Auld Lang Syne." Volunteer Lynn Airey, 56, of Chase kicked off her shoes to boogie.

"I tell you what, we have got a lively bunch of seniors here," said Kathryn Davenport, 66, as she watched a gang of women line-dance. Women outnumbered men by about 10 to one at the event.

Along with the party's planner, 70-year-old Jean Schultz of Rosedale, Davenport scurried around yesterday morning picking up a cake and trays of vegetables and cheese for the party.

Although no champagne was served, some revelers sipped beer and wine. But mostly, they just danced.

"This particular group is pretty much always ready to go," said musician Ellis Woodward, who entertained the crowd with his renditions of "The Twist" and "Unchained Melody."

Woodward plays for all age groups, but particularly likes performing for these seniors. "They do not mess around," he said. "Especially on the east side of town, they are ready to dance."

Two hip replacements, a knee replacement and bouts with cancer and kidney failure did not keep 68-year-old Dottie White from hitting the dance floor when Woodward played "Blue Suede Shoes."

"Excuse me, I have got to dance," she said.

The holiday has held sad memories for White ever since her husband died of lung cancer on New Year's Eve seven years ago. This year, she watched the ball drop on TV with Peanut, her Chihuahua-mix, then went to bed.

But yesterday, White said that she was enjoying the holiday for the first time in years. "I am feeling better," she said.

So was Dorothy Heinle, who rested her head on her husband's shoulder as they slow-danced to "Only You." Her white sequined slippers threaded around his stocking feet.

Near them swayed Carl and Doris Scarpino, both 83. The Middle River residents met at a dance here 15 years ago.

Carl Scarpino was quick to share his New Year's resolution:

"Keep on dancing," he said. "Do not sit there in that rocking chair - just keep on dancing."

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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