JENKINS TWP. — He was 105, in a wheelchair, clapping his hands and pumping his arms in time to the music.
She was a generation younger, on her feet, her heart still beating fast from the polka that had just finished.
Their eyes met. They pointed toward each other, acknowledging a connection, and even though there was a table between them, and he was sitting while she was standing, Edwin Davies and Dorothy Sarnick shared a dance.
That was just one of the poignant moments that took place Sept. 9 during a birthday celebration for nine residents of Wesley Village’s Partridge-Tippett Nursing Facility who are age 100 and older.
“I try to have this party every September,” activities director Tami Chesniak said after distributing cake to the guests of honor, about 80 other residents, friends and relatives.
Vocalists Diane and Vernon Jones from the Pittston-based band Windfall were prepared with appropriate music from the birthday celebrants’ youth, songs such as “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?”
“This one was written in 1916,” Diane Jones said before launching into “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
By the time the singers had worked their way into hits from the 1950s, party guests were proving they remembered lyrics.
Vernon Jones started them out with “I found my …”
“THRILL!” the crowd sang out. “On BLUEBERRY HILL.”
“Who said ‘strawberry?’” Jones teased.
During brief conversations between the songs, some of the day’s honorees talked about seeing the events of a century or more.
Which had been the best year?
“Whenever you’re loved,” said Ann Salus, a retired hairdresser who anticipates her 100th birthday in October.
What should a younger person do to try to live that long?
“Just be pleasant,” Salus said.
As the music continued during the hour-long party, several Wesley Village staffers and a resident or two danced a bit, especially when Windfall started a polka.
While Vernon and Diane Jones led a chorus of “E-I-E-I-E-I-O,” Wesley Village employee Loretta Chmura hit the dance floor with visitor Dorothy Sarnick, of Plains, whose mother, Olga Pieck, lives at the facility.
After the polka, Sarnick, who had noticed the animated expression on Davies’ face as he watched the fancy footwork, just couldn’t sit down.
She didn’t know him, she said later. “But I couldn’t stop dancing. He just looked so happy.”
More fun was yet to come, as Windfall invited guests to participate in “wheelchair limbo,” which took place under a limbo stick. Then they reminisced about cowboys and cowgirls, and finally, led a rendition of “Happy Trails to You … Until We Meet Again.”
Birthday celebrants included Elizabeth Bray, who maneuvered her wheelchair from the birthday table up to the band so she could shake hands with the singers and thank them for coming; and Mary Chebalo, Edwin Davies, Mildred Kilgallon, Mary Krill, Ronald Rogers, Martha Thomas, Dorothy Zalenski and Ann Salus.