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NK seniors put their passion on display as part of swing group

April 26, 2011

They sing, they tap dance, they laugh and just have fun!
A group of senior citizens at the Beechwood Senior Center has been getting together a couple times a month for more than 30 years to practice their favorites before they bring their show on the road.
The group of 20 has a repertoire of songs they go through during rehearsals, which take place every second and fourth Thursday at the senior center. They perform for other seniors at other centers, nursing homes and anywhere else they’re asked to go in the state every first and third Thursdays of the month. In their travels, they’ve performed in Jamestown, Warwick, East Greenwich, Coventry and Pawtucket.
The group was originally started in 1977 by Mary Gantz. Now, it’s fearless leader is 90-year-old director Hazel Pilon. Less than five feet tall, she may be small in stature, but she gets right down to business with her list of music in hand and gets things rolling.
“My husband was an invalid,” she said. “When he died, I was lost. My friend urged me to join the group and I’ve been singing ever since.”
They sing old tunes like “Let Me Entertain You,” “That’s Amore,” “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie,” and “Take Me Out to The Ballgame.”
“It keeps me out of trouble and on the other side of the bed,” said Gladys Vassallo, 85, who has been with the group for three years and loves every minute of it. “It’s important to give of yourself to others.”
Sarah Fischer, a member for 12 years, has always loved to sing, so it was natural for her to join when she heard about it.
“I come from a very musical family,” said the 85-year-old. “I’ve been singing since I was a little girl. I also love the community aspect.”
Polly Lathan, 79, also sings in the choir at St. Mark’s in Jamestown.
“I love seeing the smiles on the faces of those we sing for,” she said.
Lucille Newman, a retired college professor, has also been singing all her life. She sang a few lines of her favorite, “Sentimental Journey,” before rehearsal began. It was clear she hasn’t lost her touch. Pilon said there are many members who have passed on, but the group enjoys performing so much it’s worth all the work.
The group is always looking to expand. Any interested senior can go to any rehearsal at the center on Beach St.

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