By Ed Moreth 

Adults have super time at prom


March 28, 2024

Ed Moreth

Laura Gee, 102, of the Clark Fork Valley Hospital Long Term Care dances with 5-year-old Rowyn Nemi at the Super Senior Prom while social worker Tasha Steffens helps steady her on the dance floor.

A group of local senior citizens had the chance to go back to school, relive the days of their youth, and dance to the music of their generation, including a 102-year-old woman who spent a lot of time on the dance floor.

Twenty-five men and women attended the Plains School's "1st Annual Super Senior Prom" in the school gymnasium last Wednesday. Several were Plains High School graduates. Five residents of the Clark Fork Valley Hospital Long Term Care took part in the event and more than a dozen students attended the dance and mingled with the seniors.

"It was a great success. Our young people were wonderful and the community members who came enjoyed themselves. They mingled and served the community members," said Dr. Kathleen Walsh, the school superintendent, who came up with the idea of the senior citizen prom. The event lasted for just over two hours on Wednesday afternoon and was free.

Students of the Plains Student Council decorated the gymnasium with balloons, crepe paper, star light paper walls with tulle, and fancy lighted floral centerpieces on the tables, along with copies of photos of students from old yearbooks. Catherine Elliott, the school secretary, handmade bow corsages for the guests and the school shop class made wooden medallions as a keepsake. The school also provided refreshments prepared by members of the cafeteria and students from the Family & Consumer Science Class made goodies.

Teacher Ken Nelson, the Plains Student Council advisor, put together two or three hours of music from the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s. It took Plains Student Council members Drew Carey, Teirainy Bellinger, Peyton Wasson, Mike Reistroffer, Lexi Deming, Randie Kilgore, and Ireland Corbin, along with volunteer Brandt Snead, almost four hours Wednesday morning to set up the gym for the event.

It took awhile, but eventually seniors took to the dance floor, starting with 102-year-old Laura Gee, who grew up in Ekalaka, Montana. She might be moving a little slower, but her age didn't stop her when "La Bamba" followed by the "Limbo" played. "She boogies and she loves to dance. She would dance every song if she could," said TashaSteffens, a social worker at the long term care and one of Gee's dancing partners. She danced twice with high school senior Drew Carey, who felt the Super Senior Prom went very well. "The event exceeded my expectations," said Carey.

Fifty-seven-year-old Ben Saylor, a long term resident dressed in a tuxedo t-shirt, was confined to a wheelchair, but freshman Emelia Rivinius took him to the dance floor and Rivinius and a group of students, Madi Pfister, Sarah Anderson, and Jaycee Carr, danced around him. The nursing home residents dressed for a fancy ball, borrowing gowns from the Plains Community Clothing Bank, run by Jessica Peterson. The men and women both had their hair done for free by Crystal McDonald. Resident Douglas Makescoldweather asked if his hair looked okay while his group was walking over to the prom's photo booth, run by high school senior John Thurston. Long term care residents Lila Riffle, Bette Eitelberg and Dorothy McCune also attended the prom.

"The kids worked really hard on the decorations," said Walsh, who went to the Plains-Paradise Senior Center on Saturday to give seniors there a special invitation. Two kindergarten classes showed up to mingle with the seniors. Five-year-old Rowyn Nemi danced with Gee. Darlene Jolly, a 1953 Plains High School graduate, said they went through a lot of work to make the gym look great. Jolly said she didn't really know what to expect, but she also had a good time and was glad she went.

"I think these kids are just fabulous. They're outgoing and very entertaining and did a wonderful job," said Tom Cleveland, a 1968 Plains High School graduate, who attended the prom with his wife Debbie, his bother Patrick, and his brother's wife Julie. Two school board members, Monica Weedeman and Ellen Childress, attended after receiving a special invitation to the senior prom and hit the dance floor together. They even got their pictures taken in the photo booth and resorted to their younger prankster days by putting up rabbit ears behind each other's head for the photo. Childress said the school held a similar event when she was a substitute teacher there in the early 1970s, but that it was in the evening and in the old schoolhouse, which is now the MT West Dentist. Nelson said this prom was held in the afternoon to allow people to attend without disrupting any important routines and it would be something fun for them to do in the afternoon.

Ed Moreth

Seniors take to the floor to dance to the slow music of the 1950s at the Plains School "Super Senior Prom" in the gymnasium. From left: Mayor Joel Bonham and his wife, Debra, Stan and Patsy Meredith, and Sean and Jessica Peterson.

"I had fun. I would like to see them do it again. Maybe I'll have a date next time," said 83-year-old Bill Beck. Attendees Mac Hall and his wife Lorraine, weren't graduates of Plains High School, but their three grandchildren were Plains students, including Branden Vanderwall, who graduates in June. "I think it was a great idea. It gets people together," said Stan Meredith, a 1971 graduate, who was accompanied by his wife, Patsy, a 1970 grad.

"It was a wonderfully rewarding event for everyone involved. I was proud of how the staff and student body helped Dr. Walsh accomplish this," said Nelson, who added that he believes the experience enriched the lives of seniors and students alike "from the small to the tall. The opportunity to watch two disparate generations unite in a common experience was a highlight of my career."

Walsh said that it was a wonderful day where community members had the chance to enjoy the students and reminisce about their prom experiences. "They shared stories and truly enjoyed coming together in a fun environment. Our school is filled with terrific students and it was a pleasure to share them with our community," said Walsh. "I'm looking forward to next year being bigger and better."


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