Senior Center celebrates nonagenarians

Back then, they anticipated summers crabbing along the shore and Christmas morning. They played Hopscotch and Double Dutch and searched through boxes for discarded treasures to give to their family during the Great Depression.

They lived through the Hurricane of 1938 and saw floods that swept chicken coops up the street or floated the family's upright piano.

Now they spend time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, celebrate with friends and family, and appreciate their health and faith - and nine decades of life experiences.

Eighteen nonagenarians from Lyme and Old Lyme celebrated last month at a tea party for those 90 and older at the Lymes' Senior Center. They laughed and reflected on their lives as youngsters and what matters to them now.

Sue Campbell, the chairwoman of the Lymes' Senior Board of Directors, addressed the "Greatest Generation" and their contributions to their communities after the war, when they raised families.

"You instilled in them the values of patriotism, honor and hard work," said Campbell. "I'm very honored to know you, and we're very honored to have you here today."

Lymes' Senior Center Director Stephanie Lyon quizzed the attendees on pop culture trivia from their youth, when radio shows, from the Green Hornet to The Lone Ranger, were on the airwaves, and Shirley Temple was a Hollywood star. The Twinkie, a new dessert with sweet filling, came out in 1933, and Scrabble, the ever-popular word game, was invented.

The nonagenarians shared their stories, enjoyed cake with family and guests and then posed for portraits and a group photo to display the center's first annual nonagenarian class.

Frank Finley, Jr., 92, recalled his youth crabbing off the shore in Old Lyme and going to movies when his family from West Hartford spent summers in Sound View.

"That was a lot of fun," said Finley. He recalled a time when Sound View had only four or five homes and no houses by the waterfront. Finley eventually enjoyed the Old Lyme shore so much that he lived there year-round.

Angie Bazzano, 92, a resident of Old Lyme's Hawk's Nest for the past 25 years, immigrated to Hartford from Italy in 1930. She raised her family and said today she is most proud of them and her country.

Bea Minson, 94, grew up in New Haven and taught elementary school in East Lyme and Old Lyme. She said there used to be more get-togethers with families, but now families tend to be spread out more. But she said while times - and fashions - have changed, what has stayed the same is her "sense of family."

George King, 91, told a story about getting his license at age 16 and going to a New London car dealership for an inexpensive car. The dealer searched and offered King a 1927 Whippet for $50. King gave a counter offer of $30 and it was sold.

"That little car lasted through high school," he said.

Born and raised in Old Lyme, Jim Noyes, 92, saw the town grow from a population under 2,000 to almost 8,000 people.

Along with many others, Noyes' father lost his job at a factory in Old Lyme during the Depression. His father then started a business repairing furniture, where Noyes learned how to use the tools of the trade.

Noyes served on the board of directors for the senior center and helped find its current spot on Town Woods Road. The senior center was founded in 1996.

A retired builder, Noyes was also a member of the crew that did the center's carpentry work and maintenance work.

"It feels pretty good to see all these people here," he said. "Everybody seems to be enjoying themselves."

At the senior center, a room, called the "Heritage Room," will display artifacts from the center's founding, from the original plans for the building center to the shovel that first broke ground there.

The nonagenarians' photographs will be displayed on the center's walls.

"We're going to celebrate the human heritage of this center," said Diane Blackwell, a board member of the Lymes' Senior Center.

K.DRELICH@THEDAY.COM

TWITTER: @KIMBERLYDRELICH

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