Local seniors find friendship, romance through music

Mary Kelling, a retired music teacher, has been playing keyboard with the "One More Time" band for 15 years.

Mary Kelling, a retired music teacher, has been playing keyboard with the "One More Time" band for 15 years. Photo By Rory Linnane

April 15, 2014

Across the room from the band, distanced by a sea of couples dancing, Norma Shaffer was swaying her hands in the air to the beat. Her husband and dancing partner passed away, but she likes to go to American Legion Post 449 on the second Monday of every month to catch the "One More Time" group and their big band music.

"When you hear the music, it just gets to you," said Shaffer, who has lived in Brookfield since 1950. "It makes you feel like moving to the beat. It helps you to forget things."

Bored at her table, Shaffer got up and joined a couple on the dance floor, taking their hands and falling into step.

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It's been almost 19 years since the "One More Time" band started in a garage, choosing its name because its repertoire revived "big band" music many of them hadn't played since high school or college.

Now, with about 20 members, the band entertains a growing group of senior citizens each month at the legion post on 124th Street, where fans come to remember their youth and kick up their heels one more time. Upwards of 50 people attend their shows, some on buses from nearby senior residences.

The band members, who wear matching red jackets for performances, come from a wide range of communities and backgrounds. Some members are retired music teachers and professional musicians, while others have retired from a variety of posts like a firefighter, car salesman and mayor of West Allis (Fred Cashmore).

Bob Benner, a 91-year-old Brookfield resident, started playing drums professionally at age 14. He skipped over high school, touring with a slew of different bands. He joked that playing in the "One More Time" band, on the same drums he's had since 1939, is what keeps him alive.

"This is the most exercise I get all week," Benner said laughing.

On the dance floor, some of the seniors kick their feet into the air, dashing to and fro, while others shuffle through the steps long-committed to memory, from swing to polka.

"It's very rewarding to see the people, these older people out there dancing," said 80-year-old West Allis resident Terry Sweek, who plays trumpet in the band. "There are some people, I've noticed, that come who really can't dance anymore. They just walk around, kind of holding-hands-type thing, and it just makes them feel good. It makes us feel good."

Couples smile and kiss as they dance. During the breaks, they meet other couples.

Bob Sherman, a 76-year-old Brookfield resident, hit the floor with his fiance, 72-year-old Eileen Alm from Hales Corners, as practiced for their wedding dance. They are taking dance lessons and agree the music the band plays is easier to dance to than newer music.

"The modern dancing, where you're standing wiggling opposite each other, we can do it, but we'd rather do regular dancing," Sherman said.

Shaffer, after finishing her dance with the couple she joined with some hip bumps, said it was hard for her to get back into dancing after husband passed away. But she ardently encourages everyone to do it.

"I say if you can't get up and dance, then take each other's hands and just get the beat going," Shaffer said. "If you've got that rhythm in your system, don't be afraid to get up and dance."

The band's performances are open to the public 1:30-3:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. A suggested donation of $3 per person goes toward the band's equipment and music. The band will also be playing at the post on Memorial Day.

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