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Parade of Seniors Luncheon

“Thanksgiving should be celebrated in the
spring…in May, one simply can’t help
being thankful…”
from “Anne of Green Gables”
by Lucy Maud Montgomery

One of Hubby’s and my favorite TV series is “Anne of Green Gables.” Perhaps thaty’s because we have been to the home, known as the “Green Gables, on Prince Edward Island. We loved the story of Anne Shirley, who was sent to help an elderly brother and sister by assisting with the chores around their home. It is a delightful story and we appreciated it even more after visiting P.E.I. We loved the island.

As always, Hubby and I look forward the annual Parade of Seniors, a part of the Dorchester Day events. This year, the parade was held on Thurs., May 15, at Florian Hall. There were quite a few people at Florian when we arrived just before 11 a.m. We were delighted to see Joe and Carol Chaisson helping because they were in charge of the luncheon for years. This year they were assisting Paul Nutting and Millie Rooney in taking over responsibility for the event. God love Carol. She still assigned the tickets, which, for the large number of people attending, is quite a task. I think there were close to 300 there. Carol has it down to a science. My friend Loretta Philbrick was there. She had already brought in all the red geraniums that adorned each table. The plants had been donated by the Cedar Grove Cemetery and they were positively beautiful. Some day I must get up to the nursery at the cemetery and ask gardener Rusty White what he feeds the plants to have them look so healthy.

Then it was close to the time to open the doors. Loretta was at the table that accepted black-printed tickets. I was stationed at the table that accepted red-printed tickets. The seniors came rushing toward us. Because we had manned the ticket-taking tables for quite a few years, it went along like clockwork. There were several people who had forgotten their tickets. Carol, fortunately, had brought the envelopes that requested tickets by mail. She found the envelope with the person’s name and could tell us the number of the entrance ticket.

There were some stragglers, so Loretta and I waited at our tables till almost everyone had shown up.
When we went inside the hall, Loretta had reserved part of a table for us. Hubby and I sat with Loretta, and her friends Mary Shea, Pat O’Donnell, Ginny Biagiotti, and Mary McElaney. Gwen Adams also sat with us. The seniors were already opening their lunch bag while Michael Pratt was playing some of his favorite songs (“I’m Walking” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”) on his keyboard. Florian had done a wonderful job with the lunch. We had a delicious chicken-salad sandwich, a small container of cole slaw, a small bag of chips, a scrumptious brownie, and a bottle of water. The waitresses came around with coffee and brought tea to those who wanted it.

Then Joe and Carol Chaisson were asked to come to the microphone. They were thanked for their 22 plus years of service, not only for the Parade of Seniors’ luncheon (which Joe took over in 1992), but for Dorchester Day and senior and civic activities in general. They were presented citations from the state, the city of Boston, the state House of Representatives and the Senate, and from the Boston City Council, and given a rousing ovation by the appreciative group audience.

While we were eating, Paul Covington, a Boston firefighter, gave us some tips on fire safety: He stressed that we need to make sure that the smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors in our homes are in working condition. If you do not have either type of detector, you may, as a senior citizen, have detectors installed for free by the city. The worst place for fires is the kitchen. Do not wear loose-fitting clothing near the stove. Have an escape route planned if there is a fire in your home. If a pan is on fire on your stove, put a cover on the pan and shut off the burner. If a person smokes in your home, make sure you have deep ashtrays. If a person smokes outside the house, have the person use an empty metal coffee can as an ashtray. Paul also recommended that we keep plenty of room around a space heater. He urged us to use surge protectors instead of extension cords. He told us never to put an extension cord under a rug. We thanked him for giving us some wonderful hints.

At the end of the firefighter’s little talk, Paul Nutting pulled a ticket for a beautiful basket of goodies that had been assembled by Gretchen Geary. Gretchen’s husband, Ed Geary Jr., was one of our wonderful volunteers at the luncheon. Then it was time for some extraordinary entertainment. Michael Pratt asked Ann Hayward to come and sing for the seniors. She sang some terrific songs and asked us to sing along to: “When You’re Smiling,” “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella,” “There’s Gonna Be a Great Day,” “Young at Heart,” “You Gotta Ring Them Bells” (some in the audience actually rang bells to accompany the song), and finally “For Me and My Gal.” Ann has quite a stage presence when she performs. She has appeared with the Boston Pops – you can’t do better than the Pops! Harry Ellis Dickson was the Pops conductor who urged Ann, who was a waitress at Symphony Hall, to sing on stage in her waitress’s outfit. One year, Boston Mayor Kevin White asked the Pops to play in some of the city’s parks and for three summers, Ann joined the Pops Orchestra in performing across the city.

Michael Pratt then asked us to sing “Happy Birthday” to Mary Sullivan, who was 86 that day. Her younger sister, Theresa Cullinane, turned 83 on the same day. Mary was telling me that she received a wonderful birthday gift this year: a new prosthetic leg. She has taken a few steps with it but it will have to be fitted a little bit more before she can wear it. She hopes to get back to driving her car. After everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” Michael invited John Scannell to join Ann at the microphone. Together the duo sang “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “For It Was Mary,” “Harrigan,” “Over There,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” We all stood up for “God Bless America.” Then John sang “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “What a Wonderful World,” and “Those Were the Days.” I understand that John sings one morning every week after the Mass at Marian Manor. Because many of the residents of the Manor are Irish-born or Irish Americans, John has learned the Irish national anthem and “The Fields of Athenry” for them. God bless him for singing each week. I’m sure the residents love him.

I went into the lobby to speak with my friend Marion Haddad. When I came back into the hall, I saw that there was a man dressed as a clown entertaining the seniors. It took me a minute to figure out that the man was Michael Pratt. What a wonderful costume he was wearing! His songs had a clown theme: “Be a Clown,” “Send in the Clowns,” “We’re a Couple of Swells,” and “Make ‘Em Laugh.” Michael even sprayed some of the audience with glitter. (I had some in my hair.) I don’t think he knew that at the end of his clown songs, he was going to be hit in the face with a “pie” of whipped cream. He was just wonderful. I’m sorry that I did not get a chance to speak with Mike’s Mom, Celia Pratt, on the way out of the hall. I had told her before the afternoon’s festivities began that I thought he was a great guy and a terrific entertainer. He certainly proved it last Thursday.

Although Hubby and I did not win any of the prizes, many of our pals did, much to our delight. We thank all the politicians, Jim Rooney of the Convention Center, and local businesses like College Hype, Gerard’s, The Butcher Shop, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Greenhills Bakery for supplying so many of the prizes. The winners were so happy to receive them. It was like Christmas. We thank Paul Nutting, Millie Rooney, and, of course, Carol and Joe Chaisson for putting so much of their time into giving us such a lovely event, the “Parade,” as part of the Dorchester Day Celebrations.

I was sorry to read of the death of former Boston Police Commissioner Joseph Jordan on May 10. Mr. Jordan, who served in the Navy in World War II, lived in our area of Neponset, served as commissioner from Nov. 15, 1976 to Jan. 31, 1985. He leaves his wife Jacqueline (Hoar) and his children Jacquelyn Saulen, Janine, Jolienne Woodford, Joseph Jr., and Johnna Lowney. My sympathy is sent to all the Jordans.

Thanks to Ryan Woods, director of external affairs for the Boston Parks Department, I have the dates for the 7 o’clock Wednesday Night Concerts on City Hall Plaza: July 16, Tavares; July 23, Beatlejuice: A Tribute to the Beatles; Aug. 6, Decades of Dance, hits from the 60’s through today, featuring “Stardust”; and Aug. 20, Charlie Thomas’s Drifters.

This weekend is the Memorial Day weekend, a three–day holiday. Enjoy time with the family. Visit the cemetery. Say a prayer for all those who gave their lives for our country. This was a bumper sticker seen in Dorchester, which says it: “No vets, No USA.”