Tribune Print Share Text

A musical bond

Worlds collide gracefully for two local dancers

Created date

October 25th, 2011

As a studious child living in Chile, Ramona Lagos loved dancing to radio tunes. Many miles away in South Boston, Richard McCarthy embraced his Irish heritage with folk music and dance.

Shared histories

In December 1976, Ramona fled her homeland, then under the rule of military dictator Augusto Pinochet. A politically active academic, she was persecuted. Fearing for her life, Ramona came with her two very young daughters to the U.S. to restart her academic life at the University of Arizona. Later, she went on to two other American colleges, with some years working in Barcelona, Spain. The youngest of 17 children, Richard McCarthy settled in Quincy, on the South Shore of Massachusetts, with his wife and five children. He found success and pride as a licensed journeyman electrician and long-time member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 103. Ramona and Richard s paths finally converged in May 2009 when they moved toLinden Ponds, anErickson Living communityin Hingham, Mass. They met a few months later and embarked upon their current adventure, anchored in a shared history of longtime caregiving and a love of dance.

The link

After another dancing couple introduced them, Richard and Ramona began to form their friendship. Richard discovered Ramona loved Irish music: I had several records, she says. Soon after, he took her to the Cape Cod Irish Village and to the Beachcomber, an Irish bar with live music and dancing, in Quincy, Mass. I m almost a loner. He took me out of my shell, Ramona says. Conversely, Richard has become close to her world of inquiry, books, and films, through conversations and shared experiences. The link between Ramona and Richard grew stronger as they started spending two or three nights each week dancing, from the polka and ballroom to Irish and Latin dances. The two also enrolled in dance lessons with Roger and Claire Vaka, professional dancers, in Hingham. This training became applicable when Lo Steele, who lives at Linden Ponds, invited them to perform a tango with the Linden Ponds Repertory Company in this spring s production, Show Biz IV, A Small Part of the World, to much praise from audiences. Some residents see us as dancers, Ramona says, but this is just a hobby we love. Adds Richard, It s not that we are so good, but we enjoy dancing, and we enjoy dancing with one another.

Common ground

Though their backgrounds would appear entirely different, Ramona and Richard have found much common ground in addition to dance. Both were caregivers for decades before moving to Linden Ponds Ramona caring for an ill daughter, Richard for his wife. Ramona s other daughter, who lives in Sharon, Mass., with her family, suggested her mother explore the idea of retirement communities: Linden Ponds was always the very best place we visited in several years, Ramona says. Richard had been caring for his wife for years. His adult children married and left the nest to pursue their own paths. He found that taking care of a spouse and a home, maintenance, and shoveling the snow in winter was getting too hard. When his wife died, Richard decided to make the move to Linden Ponds, which was within about an hour of four of his five children, with whom he also maintains close relationships. His oldest daughter lives in Arizona.

Other pursuits

Ramona practices yoga and offers private tutoring in Spanish language, film, culture, and literature. She is also writing a book on a clinical case based on her own experience as a caregiver who navigated the maze of a demanding job and the health care system alone one of two books she planned on writing upon moving to Linden Ponds. Richard employs his technical know-how on his computer or whenever his help is requested to set up new electronic devices in the community s performing arts center. He participated recently in the construction of the outdoor concert stage at Linden Ponds, and he spends time in the woodshop where, among several other things, he built a model of the USS Constitution which is on display in the Harborside Cafe. Richard also plays golf once a week. Last year Ramona and Richard went to Chile, arriving hours before one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded, with a magnitude rating of 8.8. Although the country experienced a painful tragedy in the destroyed coastal and central areas, and hundreds of aftershocks in the 26 days of the trip, Ramona and Richard s journey was also etched with wonderful experiences. Back at Linden Ponds, the two are grateful for this new life opportunity found in the community: Dancing is proven to be the best thing for your mind and body, they both say.