Family members of residents who live at the Households at Levindale might have thought that their loved ones were imagining things when they said they were looking forward to their senior prom. However, those family members soon learned that they, too, would be invited to this prom.
On a recent afternoon, the Baltimore County Senior Swing Band, directed by Matt Elky, with soloists Ann Sophocleus and Bob Brewer, took them back to the Swing Era and had them singing and swinging in their seats. The fun, uplifting event took place in the Schwaber Multi-Purpose Room, complete with appetizers and petit fours.
The prom was the brainstorm of recreational therapist and Household Two coordinator, Sandy Parsowith. It was a team effort of all the coordinators with the help of the household hosts and staff, including Simone Rice, Sylvia Monroe, recreation therapist and coordinator Katie Griffith, and social worker, Shoshana Zuckerbrod.
Dressed to the nines, with pinned corsages, the female residents were personally escorted into the prom by members of the Baltimore City Police Department, who were in dress uniform, as part of their bi-monthly community outreach at Levindale.
The culmination of the debut event was the age-based crowning of the King and Queen of the four Levindale households; the eldest residents, 96-year-old Solomon Miller and 103-year-old Ida Goldberg. They will reign for one year.
“I was the president of the Ladies Auxiliary of T.A. [Talmudical Academy of Baltimore] for 26 years,” explained Goldberg, after her coronation. “My father (Aaron Noonberg) was the president of the Tifereth Israel Anshe Sphard shul, so leadership was always in our family.”
Ida Goldberg was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, a city that was located on the pre-war Polish-German border and taken over by the Nazis within the first days of the invasion of Poland in 1939. Fortunately in 1912, when she was three years old, her family was able to escape after authorities threated to arrest her father. Pretending that they were going shopping, they sailed to safety in America.
Levindale has been a household word (no pun intended) in the Goldberg home for decades. Goldberg’s mother, Sophie Belle Noonberg, who lived to the age of 102, had been a resident of Levindale, and her son, M. Hirsh Goldberg, was by his mother’s side at the senior prom. He remarked, “This is very impressive. We are very pleased with Levindale; my mother is doing very well here. The layout and the room are beautiful.”
“King” Solomon Miller, a native Baltimorean and retired liquor store owner, is a World War II veteran. In fact, when he was serving overseas, his wife made a recording of their favorite songs and sent it to him. He still has it and listens to that cherished recording in Household One. His pastimes include reading the newspaper and playing Scrabble.
All of the residents and their family members enjoyed the senior prom, immensely. Resident Gertrude Fine remarked, “The prom was very entertaining and most enjoyable; the music was good.” Her son, Eric Fine, M.D., who joined her at the event, corroborated and commented, “I think it is a great opportunity for the residents to feel something normal and something exciting and have a chance to dress up. It really couldn’t happen without the staff. They are terrific.”
Sharon Kreitzer, whose mother, Bessie Harvey, is a Levindale resident, agreed with the Fines. “I thought the music was exceptionally good today, and the variety of music was nice. Mom was singing along with the songs, and she doesn’t usually do that. It was well organized and well attended.”
For 77-year-old Lillian Lancaster, a resident of Household Three, the prom evoked many pleasant childhood memories of the six proms that she attended in her native Nashville, North Carolina in 1951. “Our senior prom day [at Levindale] was a very happy day, because it made you feel young, like when you went to your first prom. My police escort brought back memories of my first escort.”
Helen Wollman added, “It brings me back to the days of the ‘40s and ‘50s. ‘I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby,’ is one of my favorites.”
Mary Pressman commented, “I liked getting together with my friends from all the households.”
Household Two resident, nonagenarian Doris Kahn, gave this rave review of the senior prom: “Phenomenal! The band kept you on the edge of your seat! It was so fantastic, it made me feel like I wished I was back being a teenager.”
“We wanted this to be the first big bash that would be a coordinated Households at Levindale event, involving all the households and bringing us all together,” explained Parsowith. “This past year, each individual household has developed and cultivated its own personality, and we wanted to celebrate. Since it was such a big success, we are planning on doing this annually with different themes. The residents enjoyed the music they grew up with and loved; many brought their dancing shoes and danced. It takes a lot of organizing and work, but it was worth it to see the enjoyment on everyone’s faces.”
Written by Margie Pensak, a Baltimore-based freelance writer, with pictures by Esky Cook, a Baltimore-based photographer