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The day was full of “senior moments” to remember.
Sunday afternoon, while an anxious gray cloud hung over a Chicagoland awaiting the fate of the Cubs in World Series Game 5, the large hall at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center was awash in gold.
As has become the custom on the fourth Sunday of the 10th month, a crowd gathered for the annual Foster Senior Citizens Club Fashion Show. This year’s gala marks the 50th (golden) anniversary of the event, the proceeds from which go to support the monthly birthday parties and occasional field trips of the Seniors Club. Former Mayor Lorraine Morton was there; current Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl brought greetings from the City.
Also on hand to celebrate the gilded occasion were representatives of a select group within the Club – the Golden Ladies.
The most senior of seniors in the Senior Citizens Club, these women – a dozen of them, each 90 years or older – were the day’s honorees. Gerri Sizemore, who serves as Club treasurer and assists in numerous other ways, founded the group in 2006 after studying the Club’s by-laws. She noticed members 90 and older had the right to enjoy Club privileges without paying dues and, as Ms. Sizemore told Sunday’s attendees to appreciative laughter, “without having to sell fashion show tickets.”
Suspecting at the time that some Club members were over 90, Ms. Sizemore says she thought, “Maybe I could do something for them.” Starting the group turned out to be “one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she says. Women often call her months in advance of their 90th birthday to put her on alert. Each year at the fashion show, she presents golden scarves to a new cohort. Katherine Bridges, Bonnie Geddis, Lucille Harris and Theola Murphy, this year’s newcomers, sparkled on Sunday after Ms. Sizemore draped sun-colored sequined scarves around their necks.
Several of the Golden Ladies attending the show were well beyond the requisite age and enjoying their seniority. A number of them are as spry as the caricatures on the program cover that says, “Still on the move in the 21st century.” Verna Powell, 92, has been an Evanston resident since coming from New Orleans as an 18-year-old bride. She says she knows pretty much everyone in the room. Jaunty in her animal-print hat, she made sure a reporter had the names of all eight of her children, including well-known barbecue king Hecky Powell.
Ms. Bridges, proud to be on the cusp of 93 (Dec. 6), was general co-chairperson of the fashion show. She was responsible, she says, for the picture on the program – and for getting the ministers into the show. She says she figured, “if we got the preachers,” their flock was sure to follow.
Ms. Bridges has lived in Evanston 65 years and says she still aspires to “make an impact on our City by getting involved.” A longtime member of the NAACP, she worked for 45 years in accounting at Northwestern University and was the first minority vice president of the Evanston-Skokie PTA Council. Recently she has been busy registering voters and getting out the vote. Her advice to young people is succinct: “Get an education.”
After an introduction, prayer, hearty audience rendition of “Lift Every Voice,” and several musical numbers, commentator Tim Rhoze stepped up to the microphone, the deejay turned up the volume, and the cast of 2016 models strutted, sashayed, frolicked, and pranced down the gold-skirted catwalk. From toddler to near centen-arian, they
had smiles on their faces and a spring in their step.