Oak Park Arms Senior Prom

Seniors dance night away at Oak Park Arms’ prom

Prom in Oak ParkMarcia and Martin Gutke met nearly 10 years ago, at a dance similar to the Seniors’ Senior Prom at the Oak Park Arms retirement community.

As they swayed back and forth June 6 to Etta James’ “At Last,” the couple whispered to each other and smiled, Martin twirling Marcia now and then.

“It’s just a connection,” Martin said of dancing.

The Gutkes, who live in Chicago, have come to past proms at the Arms, and go dancing at their local Veterans of Foreign Wars lodge. Marcia followed the prom’s sock hop theme from head to toe, wearing saddle shoes, a pink poodle skirt and a white scarf. Mini records dangled from her ears.

More than 300 people — a mix of Arms residents and non-residents — attended the 35th annual Seniors’ Senior Prom. Heather Lindstrom, marketing director for the Arms, said the event has always been a staple in the community.

“We’re building on a tradition of engaging seniors,” Lindstrom said. “I think Oak Park in general — they love traditions.”

For many couples who’ve long attended dances in the Chicago area, coming back to the Arms year after year is a way to stir up old memories.

Mary Lou Quinn of Chicago said the opportunity to dance to live music is rare these days. For those in their ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the prom is a reminder of time spent at dances in their youth.

“And good memories are forever!” she said as she began dancing to an instrumental version of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

The night also featured dessert, raffles, a scholarship presentation to Oak Park-River Forest student Emery Lehman and the crowning of the prom king and queen: Bob Messner and Willie Mae Weston.

The Falconaires Combo serenaded the seniors throughout the evening. One of the couples who spent much of their time on the dance floor — Elmwood Park residents Berwyn Rascher and wife Maya Segan — reminisced about their days dancing a few times a week.

The amateur dancers even earned some trophies, Segan added, and the couple said they’re usually the first ones on a dance floor because they like to break the ice.

“We’re just old legends,” Rascher declared, shrugging his shoulders. “When other people are watching, we get on the floor.”

Like many others, Jane and Norman Coleman of Oak Park met at a dance and have been married nearly 19 years. Norman is the talented dancer, Jane said.

“Oh yeah, he loves to show off,” she said. “I think dancing is a fun way to enjoy music fully, really enjoy music. And you get a little spark.”

Norman introduced Jane as his girlfriend, which he said “keeps things youthful, fresh and fun.”

“The spark will still be there if you treat your marriage like you’re still dating,” Norman said with a twinkle in his eye.

By Caitlin Mullen
Oak Leaves – June. 15, 2014