An Irish celebration: Pilot Club spreads cheer to nursing home

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2005

There’s not a whole lot of Irish in Mabel Arnold’s heritage.

&uot;About this much,&uot; said the Autumn Care retirement home resident, holding two fingers millimeters apart. &uot;Just a smidgen. Just enough to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.&uot;

During the Pilot Club’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Autumn Care on Thursday, however, Arnold got a new sense of the Irish-the lucky part.

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She won a stuffed teddy bear in a contest to see which resident could guess the number of fortune cookies in a jar.

&uot;Everything they did tonight is my favorite,&uot; says Arnold, 83, a resident of the home since September. &uot;I just like it that the ladies of my town care enough to do something like this.&uot;

Every year, the Club members do something for Brain Awareness Week, spreading the word about such cranium-related disorders as Alzheimer’s and demetia. For this year, however, they decided to bring their celebration to the Caring facility.

&uot;We wanted to try a nursing home,&uot; said member Sarah Walden, &uot;because we felt that the residents deserved some entertainment and fellowship.&uot;

They got both in abundance; they played games like Pass the Hat, in which residents handed a hat around until music stopped, at which the last wearer won a prize. They ate ice cream and cake. They even danced and sang, as Pilot member Margaret Jones brought such songs as

&uot;When the Saints Go Marching In,&uot; &uot;My Country,&uot; and &uot;Row Your Boat,&uot; out of the facility’s piano.

For Eleanor Pittman, the notes represented a step back into her youth; they helped her remember the time she spent singing with a gospel choir on the television station WLPM in Suffolk.

&uot;I’m used to singing,&uot; she said after a hand-clapping rendition of ‘In The Garden.’ &uot;It’s something God gave me. I used to sing bass, but now I sing contralto, because I’m too heavy for bass.

As the party wound down, the fortune cookies were handed out by Club president-elect Jacque Edwards, who’ll take office this summer. Little did the residents know, however, that they were Irish-based cookies; inside every one lay a saying of Ireland.

There was &uot;I Love The Irish,&uot; the long-beloved &uot;Kiss Me, I’m Irish,&uot; and &uot;Irish for a Day.&uot; For the first time in his life, Robert Bridges Jr. could call himself an Irishman.

&uot;I didn’t know what this was until they told me,&uot; he said after reading his fortune to the crowd.

&uot;This is my first time wearing green. I’ve been to three hospitals and two nursing homes, and they’ve never done anything like this.&uot;