March 21, 2010

USA: Here's to longevity - The 90 Club

. SPRINGFIELD, Missouri / / Obituaries / March 21, 2010 By Didi Tang This is probably the most exclusive club in Springfield. Yes, John Q. Hammons is a founding member, and he picks up the group's entire entertaining tab. But wealth is not the ticket to join. You have to be at least 90 years old and have good war stories to join the Nine-O Club. It started last March when former Greene County Recorder of Deeds Russell Keller turned 90. The club was formed with him and seven longtime friends. A year later, the eight nonagenarians returned Saturday for their second annual meeting. They chatted over chicken noodle soup, shrimp linguini and cheesecake at University Plaza Hotel. "We are here to talk about the past, the present and the future," said Hammons, 91, who had carrots and celery sticks as his entree. "They are all qualified to analyze that." After champagne was poured and the soup served, Mary Beth Williams, a former city employee who helped coordinate the event, paid a tribute to the group. "The Nine-O members have made Springfield a beautiful place as it is," she said. Williams said the group represents an era of giving and of getting back on their feet. The members have paved the way for today's prosperity, she said. Russell Keller (left) and John Q. Hammons, both 91, raise their glasses to toast during the second annual meeting of the 90 Club, a club for local residents 90 and older, on Saturday at University Plaza Hotel. (Nathan Papes / News-Leader) In addition to Hammons and Keller, the other members of the club include: - Pat Delano, a former school teacher; - John Dushko, who worked for Mid-America Dairymen; - Dr. Kenneth Knabb, a retired physician; - Dick Langston, who owned a real estate company in Springfield; - Fred Rains, a TV producer known for his "Five Star Jubilee"; - Thelma Rhodes, a life-time Democrat. Old newspapers were strewn across the dining table and on a side table with photos from last year's event. Headlines read about the victory of WWII, and Delano, 94, recalled the day when the news reached Springfield. "We all went to the square. It was jammed full of people, with gun shooting," said Delano, then a ninth-grade teacher at Reed. She told the group she got a call from local radio station KSMU about six months ago. She was told that she had been nominated as an outstanding teacher. As it turned out, a student from 1945 made the suggestion, Delano said. She remembered that she made only $100 a month as a teacher at Reed. Married women could not teach, because no family was allowed to have more than one income, but some women lied about their marriages so they could keep their jobs, Delano said. Rhodes, whose father was a Budweiser distributor in Springfield, remembered the days of dancing and golfing. "When the school was off, we went down to Branson for the summer months," said Rhodes, 92. She recalled her family had Christmas displays with lit trees and animated decorations in the front yard. "We had thousands of people who came to see it," Rhodes said. A lifelong Democrat, Rhodes said she voted in the 2008 presidential election. "I am a good Democrat," she said. With one of its members still active in the business world, talk among club members turned to the future. They wondered how the national health care reform would go and how Springfield would grow. "It's a normal city, with a three to four percent growth," Hammons said. "It will always grow some." [rc] Copyright ©2010 Seniors World Chronicle adds: This story about The 90 Club has been published on the newspaper's Obituaries page!