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Seniors mix it up at local dances, finding fun, fitness and friends

By , Columbian environment and transportation reporter
Published: November 19, 2017, 10:29pm
8 Photos
Mark Melchert and Judy Bealer dance at one of the city parks and recreation department’s regular 50 and Better dances Sunday at the Firstenburg Community Center.
Mark Melchert and Judy Bealer dance at one of the city parks and recreation department’s regular 50 and Better dances Sunday at the Firstenburg Community Center. Photo Gallery

The city parks and recreation department’s senior dances have been moved to the Firstenburg Community Center while the regular dance floor at the Luepke Community Center is resurfaced.

When watching the crowd at the regular Sunday afternoon dance tear it up, it’s not hard to imagine why.

“They’re very serious about their dancing,” said Pam Lovelace, who works with the city and was helping with Sunday’s dance.

Many of the recurring faces of the 70 to 90 people who come out to the 50 and Better dances make a regular circuit out of it, Lovelace said, and they’ll hit the city’s and Elks’ and Eagles’ lodges dances throughout the week.

“These dances are wonderful,” said Pat Greear, who was taking a break with her partner, John Kegley.

“They have good music. Live music,” she said. “It’s much easier to dance to live music.”

They’ve been coming to the city’s regular dances for about 8 or 9 years, and they’ve been dance partners for about 12 years.

It’s also a good way to stay active with age, she said.

“It’s good exercise. The only thing is I eat too much,” Kegley added in agreement, grinning and pointing at his belly.

Last week, Greear and Kegley won a first place award at an Elks dance competition.

Clark Helvey, another dancer Sunday, estimated somewhere from half to three quarters of the usual group have taken some kind of class or instruction. Helvey used to be a part-time professional dancer.

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Like him, he added, pointing to his white and brown wingtips, many are committed to the point they bring along dancing shoes.

Helvey and his wife would compete all over the Northwest and beyond, he said, and when she died, he kept it up.

“All my friends that showed up at the memorial said, ‘You gotta get out, don’t let this keep you at home. So get out and dance and join the people that you didn’t know,’ because I didn’t dance with these people much,” he said.

“Health is not just activity, it’s social life as well.”

Helvey recalled seeing one of his dance teachers, one of the originators of the Lindy hop, conducting a lesson at 90 years old.

It was something to keep in mind for later, he said.

“I’m thinking to myself, this guy can do this when he was 90? This is cool,” he said.

After months off following his knee replacement surgery, Milton Mance and wife Kathy Jones-Mance were still getting back into the swing of things Sunday.

“Got some WD-40, and I’ve got things going now,” Milton said.

They’ve been dancing together for some time, Kathy said, and before they got married about 6 years ago, they had a standing date night, “honky-tonkin'” at an Elks club.

Dancing also has a social function, they said, and the group has grown into a community. Even more for some: Greear and Kegley met and became an item in part through dancing, and several other dancers found spouses through the events.

“If you look around, we’ll all talk to each other on the floor, that’s because most everybody that is here goes to the other dances, so we know them an see them at all the other places” Kathy said.

“It does two things for us: We smile and we exercise.”