NANTICOKE — The crowd of about 100 or so at the new Rose Tucker Active Adult Center were sipping coffee and munching treats Wednesday as they awaited the grand opening ceremony to begin.
And then singing DJ George Rittenhouse played an Elvis Presley song. The place erupted into a dance club with many seniors dancing and gyrating to “The King.”
Gail Voyton, director of the center at 145 E. Green St. in the former Pope John Paul II School that closed nine years ago, said the new location opened July 6 and it offers much more space than the previous center. She said the clients have been raving about the new gathering spot.
“The relocation has not been much of an adjustment for our seniors,” Voyton said. “I think it’s been more of a celebration.”
Voyton said seniors enjoy the social aspects of the center where they have lunch and play games and plan trips to casinos and other events.
One of his first songs Rittenhouse played was “Ramblin’ Rose,” a fitting tune for the center that is named in memory of former Luzerne County Commissioner Rose Tucker.
Irene Gregory, who will turn 89 in October, said the new center has attracted more people.
“I love the camaraderie,” she said. “We plays games like pinochle and bingo and pokeno. We’re taking a bus trip to Mount Airy (casin0) to hear a Barry Manilow impersonator.”
Dorothy Dougiallo, 81, said she enjoys the socializing at the center.
“I like everything here,” she said. “There’s always something fun for us seniors to do.”
Dougiallo and Gregory were at a table with Maxine Carey, 71, Loretta Minsavage, 91, Bernadine Aciukewicz, 82, Marion Samselski, 82, Marion Bertoni, 82, and Janet Martin, 76.
“This is a great place to pass the time,” Bertoni said. “It takes a couple of hours out of our day. It gets us away from cleaning our houses.”
John Marcinkevicz, 92, enjoys the meals and he loves to play cards. He also loves to spend time with all the women, who outnumber the men about 15 to 1.
“If I stayed at home, I’d be staring at the four walls,” he said. “Here, I meet a lot of people and have some fun.”
Marcinkevicz brings his harmonica and plays a few tunes every day, like “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Down in the Valley.”
Marcinkevicz said the women at his table are all “girlfriends.” And then he said, “And there are a few more over there.”
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, and Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, attended the ceremony and offered comments.
Yudichak called the center’s grand re-opening a celebration of “the continued revitalization of our beloved hometown of Nanticoke.”
Yudichak said just a few years ago the center was located on Main Street and had to be relocated to make way for Luzerne County Community College’s Culinary Arts Institute — a $30 million investment in Nanticoke’s downtown.
He said progress is being made on the Nanticoke Streetscape project and more good news is on the way with investments in Main Street and Patriot Square that could attract new businesses.
Mullery said the opening of the Rose Tucker Active Adult Center is another step forward in the revitalization of Nanticoke.
“The remodeled parish center provides our senior citizenry with a modern and pristine gathering center,” Mullery said. “Nine years ago, my heart broke when Pope John Paul II School closed its doors. Today, my heart was full of joy seeing the refurbished building filled with grateful constituents.”
Yudichak praised the effort to keep the center in Nanticoke and he heaped more praise on Rose Tucker, for whom the center is named.
“In Luzerne County, we have unique institutions.” he said. “We have great traditions and we have special people. In Rose Tucker, we had all three wrapped in one. She was a trailblazer and a shining example of how with hope in your heart can do great things, no matter your age or station in life.”
Tucker was the first woman in Luzerne County history to be elected county commissioner as a Democrat and the first woman to chair the Luzerne County Board of Commissioners.
“And she did it all after her 60th birthday,” he said.
That was more music to the ears of the center’s clients.