VIDEO: Magnolia Heights Prom King & Queen Dancing

Alice Capone and Paul Walker, named prom queen and king of the Magnolia Heights Gracious Retirement Living ward in Franklin, dance together.

Heather McCarron, Country Gazette

FRANKLIN – With a beaming smile, Alice Capone reluctantly accepted Paul Walker’s offered hand as he whirled it on a polished dance floor under dim, firefly light, and Elvis Presley began to sing like he couldn’t fall in love.

All eyes were on the couple as they danced, all smiling and remembering their own memorable moments on the dance floor.

Capone wore a delicate silver tiara, a blue blouse that highlighted the blue of her eyes, and black pants with a pattern of blue tropical flowers. A white sash was looped from the right shoulder to the left hip, which proclaimed her “prom queen”. Walker, wearing his own white prom King sash, looked neat in a charcoal gray suit and diamond patterned tie in green, blue, and black.

If you watch them maneuver on the dance floor, you might think they have done this together many times and are well acquainted with each other. But no. The duo named King and Queen of the Senior Prom held on Wednesday at Magnolia Heights Gracious Retirement Homes Community said they had only just formally met.

“I only knew them in passing,” he said after they returned to their thrones and smiled at them.

“Just wave,” she said, her face lit with a dizzying smile.

That will probably change now. Now they have danced as a queen and a king. New friends.

It was called the prom but could also have been called a graduation ceremony as the community residents gathered for an afternoon of dancing, eating and talking on Wednesday.

For the first time in more than a year, the residents of Magnolia Heights were able to socialize in a large group at 485 E. Central St. – meet old friends and make new ones without hindrance. And like high school seniors throwing off their caps to finish their school years, the seniors could leave their masks behind to end their pandemic experience.

The Senior Prom is an annual event in Magnolia Heights, but last year’s meeting had to be canceled. With the lifting of the pandemic restrictions and the vaccinations, there was additional reason to celebrate on Wednesday.

“It’s the first major event we’ve had since COVID,” said Maureen Beckerman, activity coordinator at Magnolia Heights.

She described how residents were “quarantined for a few months” to prevent the possible spread of COVID, then cautiously moved to smaller gatherings, mostly outdoors, and finally to the unrestricted prom.

“That was a huge turnout for us,” Beckerman said of the crowd attending this year’s prom. About 130 seniors call the senior community home.

During the event, the superlatives of the community were revealed based on everyone’s votes. Awards were given for: Destined To Be Famous, Biggest Flirt, Best Hair, Most Friendly, Most Fun, Best Laugh, Most Talented, Best Dancer, Cutest Couple, Biggest Coffee Drinker, Best Singer (two were named), Most Crafty, Best Dressed, most helpful and funniest resident.

Judith Wimer, who recently turned 92, called the prom “great fun” and said she was grateful to still be able to do things she loves, like dancing. She said that she and her husband went dancing at their yacht club “all the time” and it was nice to be able to dance with friends again.

For Becky Jones, a new resident, the celebration was a welcome opportunity to mingle with her new neighbors. Was she happy to be able to socialize without a mask? “Oh, God, yes!” she exclaimed with obvious relief. “Certainly.”

Prom king Walker said it was great to be able to get back together with everyone again, and beyond the ball it was nice to be able to dine with four instead of two at one table.

“We have a lot of fun doing different things and fooling around,” he said.

He admitted that the restrictions imposed by the pandemic were not easy, but “we were content with that”.

“You have to have a positive attitude,” he said.

Capone agreed that the pandemic was difficult to manage, and not just because time with roommates was so limited.

“What I’ve missed most is seeing my family,” she said.

VIDEO: Dancing at Magnolia Heights Senior Prom

Residents of Magnolia Heights senior community in Franklin enjoy the dancing at a prom event on June 9th.

Heather McCarron, Country Gazette

Both love the senior prom. Walker said it wasn’t the same as the high school prom, “but it brings back memories of our degrees.”

He remembered graduating from high school with a girl everyone called “Blondie”.

Blondie Duff.

“I don’t remember her first name, but everyone called her Blondie,” he said.

Capone recalled going to her prom with a boy named Dick in the late 1940s.

“I had a red, polka-dot Swiss dress,” she said.

Capone remembered honing her dancing skills with her older brother, who often danced with her. Walker said he only took one formal dance lesson when he was 20 and didn’t go back after being awkwardly paired with a 12-year-old partner during that first class.

Others attending the prom on Wednesday had their own memories of past proms and their own excitement that the pandemic’s restrictions were lifted and they were able to socialize.

“We are happy to be able to take off the masks,” said Rita Tonelli as she and three friends enjoyed a refreshing drink at one of the tables in the dining room, which has been converted into a ballroom. “It’s so nice to see our friends’ faces.”

“I almost didn’t recognize some people,” agreed Patricia Nigro, who was sitting on her right. “It’s nice that we can finally move now.”

“It’s wonderful to see everyone finally wanting to have a good time,” added Alice Judge, a former newspaper correspondent. “It’s so wonderful to see so many here.”

Along with boyfriend Del Geddes, who agreed it was “a great time,” the women giggled at the memories of their high school graduations from their prom in Magnolia Heights.

Tonelli, a member of the 1956 class, said, “I was wearing a white chiffon dress that I thought was the dreamiest thing in the world.” She attended with a boy named Paul Demers who, she laughed, later became a priest.

Nigro talked about her “green, kind of chiffony-looking, pretty thing” she wore while attending her high school prom with a boy named Joe, whom she later married.

While the women reminisce, Noah O’Neil, waiter and kitchen helper at Magnolia Heights, led resident Linda Tittle onto the dance floor. The two had the word for themselves for Anne Murray’s song “Could I Have This Dance”.

After that, Tittle said she had a fabulous time.

VIDEO: Take a spin on the dance floor at Magnolia Heights prom

Noah O’Neil dances with Linda Tittle during Magnolia Heights prom in Franklin on June 9th.

Heather McCarron, Country Gazette

“I love being out with people,” she said. “The last year has been so depressing, and that’s nice.”

Meanwhile, Alice Lymperes slipped onto the sidewalk outside the lobby area, where she’d heard that a Juniper Farms ice cream van was parked serving free goodies at the prom. Roommates who had already gathered cool treats sat nearby, catching the light breeze that tried to take some relief from the damp air.

After consulting with Cam Hannigan, the driver of the ice cream truck, she happily accepted her ice cream and apologized for not having the money to tip him – something he didn’t have to worry about.

“That is a pleasure!” She said.

And she didn’t just mean the ice cream. To be able to go without a mask, to mingle with her roommates … that was now the real pleasure.

“I hated the mask,” she said. “I felt like I was in prison. So, yes, this is a treat!”