"The nice thing about dancing is you move every muscle in your body," said Russell Heindselman of La Grange. "When I went to the doctor, the doctor said, 'keep on doing what you're doing.'
"I hope I never get to be a senior citizen," Heindselman joked.
When the Uptown Strings band, led by Marty and Betty Parsons Miller, begins their first song at noon each Wednesday at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center in Hannibal, the senior adults are ready to hit the dance floor. They may be in their 80s and 90s, but they do not need a doctor to tell them to exercise.
After dancing with Mary Looten of Palmyra on Aug. 7, Heindselman said he was sure that five or six of the 24 people there were 90 or older. When he started attending the dances in Hannibal in 1988, "100 came, and now there are just 25 of us left."
He declared that "the best therapy your body can have is dancing. On a treadmill you only exercise your legs."
Among the dancers on Aug. 7 were Shirley Cornelius, Dick Hamm, Dorothy Marshall, Martha Williams, Jack Spegal, Shirley Elliott, Mary Lou Nichols and Norris Otten.
"This has been my life for about 40 years," said Rose Curfman as she and her husband, Paul, sat at the registration table. "We look forward to Wednesday."
Everyone signs in, Rose said, and "if anyone is missing, we check them out" to be sure there is no problem.
Some of the Uptown Strings band members have been playing together for many years, such as brothers Bill and Glenn Cornelius. Bill plays bass, and Glenn plays harmonica and guitar.
Glenn Cornelius started playing with the band in 1986 after retiring. His favorite music is "swing" and a favorite to play on harmonica is "Danny Boy." Among tunes he enjoys singing are "You'll Never Know" and "Don't Be a Baby, Baby."
Glenn first played harmonica at age 3 and remembers his first song, "Yankee Doodle Dandy." He added guitar at age 8, playing "three-chord cowboy songs."
Now he and Bill - along with Marty and Betty Parsons Miller - play every Sunday at their Salem Baptist Church, and each Monday at area nursing homes.
Marty was ordained a minister on Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Gospel Shed, with the Rev. Gary Robnett, pastor of Salem church, leading the service.
At the Aug. 7 dance, Glenn's wife, Shirley, took time out from dancing to sing "It Had To Be You."
Another member of Uptown Strings is Tom Williams of Bowling Green, who plays saxophone and has been in this group for about 20 years. One of his favorite songs is "In the Mood."
Virgil Watts plays keyboard and guitar, and Wendell Glance plays guitar.
'We have had people
Page 2 of 2 - meet and get married'
The Millers have led the Uptown Strings for many years, even before the band took this name in the early 1970s. Betty explained one name was the Forget Me Nots, which played in New London before coming to Hannibal for the senior dances. It also played in Bowling Green and in Illinois, and once was named Deep River.
Betty invited all senior adults to come to the Wednesday dances in Hannibal, even if they do not intend to dance. "They don't have to dance," she said. "They can sit there and talk to people. ... And we have people come in and walk while we are playing, and enjoy the music that way."
The dances are "just a good way to get out and meet people and make friends," she said. "And we have had a lot of people meet at a dance and get married."
The group does not just listen to the music and dance, she said, "Anytime we have a chance, we have a carry-in," such as for a holiday, birthday or anniversary.
Anyone who has not attended the dances is "missing a good time," Betty said. "Too many times seniors retire and think they are going to stay home, but they miss out on a lot of things."
In addition to the weekly dances, "a lot of people go to the senior meals, and they can sit around and talk and play bingo," Betty said. "There are all kinds of things to do. It's a shame so many people don't take advantage of the things we have here in Hannibal."
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