More than 70 years ago, as World War II was winding down, Bob Walsh and Jerre McPartlin performed together in a musical called Janie Dear.
“I played her boyfriend,” recalled Walsh. “We go way back. We have a lot of mutual friends.”
Walsh, 87, and McPartlin, 88, attended different Chicago high schools and, besides, had a one-year gap between them. On Thursday night, however, they were side-by-side and became part of the same class: the sixth “60 Over 60” group of Celebrating Seniors honorees.
Along with about 100 others, they descended on the 19th Century Club, 178 Forest Ave. in Oak Park, for Rib’bon Fest. The occasion kicked off the sixth annual Celebrating Seniors Week that begins on Thursday, May 12 throughout Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.
Wednesday Journal is a sponsor of Celebrating Seniors Week.
In all, the Celebrating Seniors Coalition honored 62 men and women this year for their myriad contributions to those communities—past, present and future.
In his remarks Thursday evening, Celebrating Seniors Coalition founder and chairman Jim Flanagan emphasized the continued vibrancy of this venerable segment of the population.
“You refuse to succumb to the old stereotype,” Flanagan said. “You were all selected because you represent what older adults should aspire to. You have met and continue to meet the challenges of life, family and community and you do so with honor and grace.”
Dubbed Rib’bon Fest, because of the donation of barbecued ribs from area restaurants that form the centerpiece of the evening’s buffet meal, the evening went beyond recognizing standout seniors.
A not-for-profit organization, Celebrating Seniors has coordinated about 50 events throughout Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park that range from educational seminars to rollicking entertainment. The events, most of which are free and open to people of all ages, are detailed in a 64-page resource guide, available at numerous area venues.
The guide also includes photographs, biographical notes and words of wisdom imparted by the “60 Over 60” honorees as well as letters from Flanagan and Rev. Alan Taylor, president of the Community of Congregations, which serves as Celebrating Seniors’ fiscal agent.
As in years past, a subset of 60 Over 60 honorees included married couples — nine this time around — whose cumulative togetherness amounted to centuries of persevering through trials and reveling in triumphs.
Included in this group was Bob Walsh’s youthful 84-year-old wife, Marietta.
“This was a fabulous evening,” said Marietta, a retired high school math teacher who along with her husband owned Logos bookstore in Oak Park for many years. “It’s just nice to let people know seniors are still moving.”
Honorees ranged alphabetically from Mickey Baer, the former owner of A Matter of Style salon in Downtown Oak Park, to Iris Yipp, formerly co-owner of The Magic Tree Bookstore on Oak Park Avenue.
Selected through a nomination process, they have made significant marks in careers spanning education, medicine, literature, entertainment, public service, business, and philanthropy. They include acclaimed novelist Elizabeth Berg, Dr. Jaime Escobar, retired Forest Park Police Chief Jim Ryan and Bob Taylor, who at 90 was the oldest runner in Chicago’s Shamrock Shuffle this spring.
Taylor and his wife, Stacia, who was also honored, were among a group of runners pictured on last year’s Celebrating Seniors Resource Guide. Also on hand for Rib’bon Fest was this year’s “cover girl,” Val Camilletti, a prior “60 Over 60” selection and owner of Val’s halla Records.
Flanagan announced that the Battle of the Bands event (7-10 p.m. Saturday, May 14 at River Forest Community Center) is being named in Camilletti’s honor.
Other marquee events include the 5K Blaze A Trail Run/Walk that begins at the Concordia University outdoor track (Saturday, May 14), Pet Pals in the Park (Sunday, May 15) at Lindberg Park on Oak Park’s north end, and Senior Speed Dating (Wednesday, May 18) at Brookdale Senior Living in Oak Park.
The week wraps up on Thursday, May 19, with a closing luncheon at Concordia University’s Koehneke Center. The event will feature keynote speaker Bruce DuMont, longtime nationally syndicated radio host of “Beyond the Beltway” and founder and president of the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Tickets for the event, which is from noon to 2 p.m., are $25 each. Funds raised contribute to supporting seniors in financial need, which is one of the four objectives established when Flanagan, chairman of the Oak Park/River Forest Township Senior Services Committee, founded the Celebrating Seniors Coalition in 2010.
Since its inception, Celebrating Seniors has raised a net amount of $63,000 and given 23 grants totaling more than $18,000.
The group’s other three objectives are to facilitate cooperation between the business community, government agencies and non-profit organizations for the benefit of the senior population; to promote senior groups and organizations that serve persons 60 and older; and to raise public awareness of issues affecting seniors.
For more information about Celebrating Seniors, including the weeklong series of events, consult a Celebrating Seniors Resource Guide, visit www.celebratingseniors.net or call 708-386-3100.