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Seniors Scale Back Valentine's Day Celebration

Feb. 13, 2009 — Dressed to the nines, with most wearing red, more than three dozen St. John seniors celebrated Valentine's Day Friday with a luncheon at St. Ursula's Multipurpose Center.
Although the seniors always celebrate holidays, the current fiscal crisis forced director Clarence Scipio to scale back the party. At most, the seniors honor four people from the community for their efforts in helping seniors, but Scipio had to forego that aspect of the party. Seniors come from centers on St. Thomas for lunch and the room is filled with flowers.
"We don't have the money," he said.
He promised that the Mother's Day celebration would include the traditional honoring of senior helpers.
Honoring the four costs about $4,000 to $5,000, Scipio said, with about $1,800 going to fund the glossy color booklet that features stories about those being honored.
So Scipio and the seniors improvised. They sang the "Senior Citizen's Theme Song" to the tune of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
"If you're 60 years and older and don't know what to do, just join the senior center and they will welcome you," the seniors sang.
Scipio, himself a senior at 77, talked about the time more than a year ago when he was shot by someone bent on robbing him as he waited for a friend in St. Thomas.
"The bullet went through my hand, my belly and my leg," he said.
He jumped in the car and drove himself to Roy L. Schneider Hospital.
That sparked a discussion on what to do about the territory's crime problem. Scipio advocated vocational training so youths would have the skills to take available construction jobs.
"Then I think the crime will go down," he said.
The Rev. William A. Potter, who shepherds the flock at St. Ursula's, explained the origins of Valentine's Day. He said St. Valentine lived in the 3rd century A.D. and was one of the early church martyrs.
"He loved getting people together," Potter said.
In 1840, the pope shipped his bones from his native Italy to Ireland, were Potter said a special mass was held for "all young people in love."
"But you don't have to be a young person to celebrate love," he said.
Calvin George, dressed in a red flowered shirt, and his wife Floreca, in white, are living proof since they have been married 59 years. While her husband said he was blessed to be married so long and hoped for many more years together, his wife had this to say about the longevity of their marriage.
"You just have to swallow everything and go ahead," she said.
Many of those who regularly attend the center do so alone. John Gagliotti said seeing the same people every day gives him the chance to get to know everyone.
"It's like a family," he said.
Anna Dohm happened on the senior lunches one day when her car broke down. She went to the Dial-A-Ride office to get a lift and the staff suggested she go to the center for lunch.
"Lunch is good and the company is great," she said.
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