Love still alive and well during soiree for seniors at Tatem Elementary School
Love was in the air on Sunday, Feb. 10, at Tatem Elementary School, as the Haddonfield Memorial High School LEO Club held its annual Valentine’s Day dance for older adults.
Spearheaded by HMHS social studies teacher Margaret Gammie, who acts as advisor for the LEOs and just finished her third year volunteering and organizing the event, along with more than two dozen student volunteers, the two-hour dance provided a warm contrast from the chill outside.
HMHS students and LEOs Luke Baxter and R.J. Mroz presided over a trivia contest of both old and new questions on a variety of subjects, and passed out gift bags to those who answered correctly.
The real fun began immediately afterward, when Frank Schmidt and his dance partner
Mavis — whom “everybody knows as Mavis” — staked out a spot on the dance floor right from the drop once the music kicked in, and only paused briefly throughout the two-hour event to sit down, eat and chat with others at their table.
In fact, Mavis was active in teaching those in attendance — not only fellow seniors, but also their children and grandchildren along with LEO volunteers — how to perform certain moves during line dances as songs played spanned the generations from Glenn Miller to the Cupid Shuffle.
It wasn’t surprising, then, that Frank and Mavis, who have known each other for about 15–20 years, were named the King and Queen of the dance.
“It’s very nice. We never expected it and it’s a nice privilege to be selected. We kind of hogged the floor, yeah,” said Schmidt. Mavis also chimed in, saying: “Same here, I’ve been coming here for years anyway. I love these kids who put this on.”
Frank and Mavis met in one of the latter’s line-dancing classes she teaches on a regular basis at the Mabel Kay Senior Center.
“I used to be a participant in line dancing, and I thought I might as well see if I could dance with the teacher somewhere else,” Schmidt said. “It’s nice. Time marches on, and there’s change and you keep up with the times if you can.”
Mavis added she tries to keep up with the times, but some of the newer music is not really part of her style. However, as a teacher she knows that if a particular song is a good one to dance to, she’ll use it in class.
“(I’ve been coming here) at least 10 years. Ever since I started teaching, they used to try to get me to come over and do some dancing. Time passes so fast,” she said.
One couple who didn’t manage to get up and shake a tailfeather, but who eagerly had a story to tell, were the Brahins — Rita and Joey — who have been together for the last 53 years.
“We met at a dance in Philadelphia, which is where we’re from, and they would have these dances every Sunday. It was an organization involved with cystic fibrosis, they would have dances at different places. This one in particular was at Wagner’s Ballroom in North Philadelphia,” Rita Brahin said.
“Everybody went to these dances because what they did was meet their dates for the next week. One of these nights, it was late, and I thought I didn’t want to go, but I wanted to see a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in a while. I knew she was there, and when I got there, guess who I met…my husband of the future.”
For his part, Joey said he used to call his wife honey or sweetheart, but he’s long since taken to calling her “boss.”
“That kinda happened over the years,” he deadpanned.
“The secret of our successful marriage is two things: Number one is space, number two is I always let him get the last couple words in, and they’re usually, ‘yes, dear,’’’ she added. “We’ve lived in New Jersey for about 50 years. We came from Philadelphia. We’re retired now, but our big plans are getting up each day.”
Neither said they couldn’t imagine spending the rest of their lives, or the start of their lives, with anyone else.
While Gammie and her dedicated troupe of volunteers could have thought about better places to be on a Sunday afternoon, it was clear that all were happy to pitch in and make the day special for those in attendance.
“The students look forward to the Senior Citizens Prom as one of their favorite LEO activities. We love spreading goodwill and some Valentine’s Day cheer to our neighbors in Haddonfield. It is such a delight to see our students give back to their community,” Gammie said.