PITTSFORD — In Reddington Hall at St. Louis Parish, Woodside Manor Nursing Home resident Judy Kladstrup sat smiling, listening to Bourbon Street Jazz play an old Louis Armstrong number.
“I especially like Satchmo,” she said, using Armstrong’s nickname, as the band’s singer growled in a voice strikingly akin to that of the famed trumpeter.
Thomas Rodenhouse, a sixth-grader at St. Louis School, said the elderly man to whom he was talking also liked the jazz he was hearing. However, “I really don’t like old music,” Thomas confessed, adding that he prefers rap. The young man quickly said, though, that he thought the band was doing a good job.
“These people are talented, and they know what they’re doing,” he said.
Maybe the generations don’t agree on matters of musical taste, but young and old alike seemed to be having fun at the 25th annual “Sunshine Luncheon” May 21. Every year, St. Louis parishioners and students put on the affair for residents of area senior homes such as Woodside in Brighton, according to Marie Stekloff, co-chairwoman of the Sunshine Luncheon committee. This year’s event drew about 230 seniors from 17 residences, she said, adding that about 40 adult parishioners and 40 sixth-graders staffed the event.
“It’s just been a wonderful way for the church and the school to work together,” Stekloff said.
Shelly Maguire, a mother of three students at St. Louis, pointed out that students in the school’s other grades contributed to the luncheon as well, making patriotic artwork for the walls and cards that the seniors could take home as mementos. Fifth-graders rolled the silverware settings, she said, and the parish’s Girl Scouts donated center pieces and napkin holders.
Maguire said that the children were learning respect for their elders by volunteering at the luncheon, while garnering some knowledge of what life was like in the “old days.” She added that the children were also learning that “life doesn’t end when you’re older.”
Kathleen Carroll, school principal, said the Sunshine Luncheon helped to bridge the generation gap.
“I think it’s very good for the senior people to see the youth, because it gives (the seniors) hope in the future,” Carroll said.
Sixth-grader Kelsey Bullis worked as a server, bringing out food to the Sunshine Luncheon guests. She said one woman to whom she talked had a grandson at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Brighton and another grandson who had just made his first holy Communion. Kelsey added that she was enjoying her work.
“It’s really fun because it brightens their day,” she said of her guests.
Kladstrup said she was particularly enjoying the day because it was a homecoming for her. She was a member of St. Louis Parish from 1965-70, she said.
“Everyone is very friendly, and they make sure everyone is comfortable,” she said of the St. Louis community.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Helen Melroy, mother of NASA space shuttle astronaut Pam Melroy, a St. Louis graduate, said she and her husband, David, drove up from their home in Canadice just to help out with the luncheon. Although they now belong to St. Mary’s Parish in Honeoye, the Melroys are former St. Louis parishioners who wanted to work at the luncheon for a reason, Helen said.
“It’s just seeing the older people, seeing the camaraderie, getting the elderly out to something they enjoy and just having a good time,” she said.
Dorothy Dispenza, co-chairwoman of the luncheon committee, said she was honored to serve the elderly guests.
“It’s just such a privilege for us, who prepare the activities of the day, to serve these wonderful people — seeing the happy faces away from their regular routine, just enjoying themselves,” she said.
Father James A. Schwartz, St. Louis’ pastor, summed up the meaning of the day for everyone when he led the celebration’s participants in prayer.
“Regardless of what the weather is outside, there is much sunshine on the inside of our hearts with your presence among us,” the priest said to the guests.