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Helping each other out

Thursday Nighters' bond over laughter, song, friendship

Created date

June 25th, 2013
A kazoo

Seated in Bill Greene s living room, the gentlemen are quick with witty banter, followed by large laughs as they describe their friendships and how dinnertime together has turned into a mini cabaret. It needed livening up, Bill quips of the group of seven s decision to add song to their Thursday evening dinners in the Overlook Restaurant at Linden Ponds, the Erickson Living community in Hingham, Mass., where they live. The group also includes Phil Matthews, Sam Allar, Hank Barone, Eddie McCormack, and Bob Lutz. We threw the sparkplug in there, and these fellows lit up, says Don Catero, the newest addition to the group, dubbed the Thursday Nighters. The men begin with a drink in Linden Ponds Acorn Pub before finding a table in the Overlook. They find just the right time at the table to signal their pending performance by throwing straws in the air or sounding a note on Bill s kazoo. Then, they launch into one or two songs, typically from the 1940s and 1950s, often followed by applause. When we erupted the first time, we kind of shocked everyone, Phil says.

Keeping themselves smiling

Despite the lightness and humor in their meetings, the circumstances that brought these men together are anything but light. All seven men moved to Linden Ponds with their wives, but six were widowed in the years that followed. Bill Greene moved in with his wife in October 2008, but the following year she moved to Linden Ponds continuing care neighborhood after her Alzheimer s disease had progressed. I was quite despondent and somebody introduced me to Phil, who had just lost his wife to Alzheimer s. We got to talking, and before you knew it, there were three more men we knew who had lost their wives within three or four months of each other, Bill says. We decided to get together and have dinners and keep ourselves smiling. Phil adds of his friendship with Bill: We could make each other laugh so easily that we bonded quickly. As for their humor, Phil says, It s about as subtle as a steamroller. In addition to their dinners in the Overlook, the men play pool, gather for homemade Italian dinners in Hank s apartment home, and arrange outings to the theater and to play golf. It s a tremendous help, Eddie says of the group. It s a long day when you re alone. They got me back to golf.

Similar paths

We don t like the requirement to be a member, Bill says of the group, but the men have more in common than loss. All seven are World War II veterans: four were in the U.S. Navy, Bob was in the Army, and Hank was in the Army Air Corps. Sam, who was a combat medic in the Army, was awarded France s highest honor as well as a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for bravery. Post-war, the men went to college and chose professions, some in the same fields. Between their diverse professional experiences and their gregarious personalities, the men have plenty of fodder for discussion. My career was my mouth, Don says. He was in marketing and sales for building materials and began his own division to sell lawn and gardening equipment. Eddie worked as a manufacturing manager for a company that provided products for developing energy resources. Bob was a television and communications engineer responsible for airing some of Boston s favorite sports teams. Both Bill and Sam worked as pharmacists, and Hank and Phil were school principals. When Hank retired as a school principal, he took up cooking a hobby that his friends appreciate. In addition to the regular Italian dinners with homemade sauce, Hank recently cooked a seafood feast for the group after Bill discovered an online coupon for lobsters, crab cakes, and mussels from a local seafood purveyor. The men pitched in to make the purchase, and Bill, Hank, and Eddie picked up the food that Hank cooked in his apartment. The tough thing was finding the pots and pans, Eddie jokes.

Giving back

More than their time together, the group members have sung and acted in various productions at Linden Ponds as members of the Linden Ponds Singers. Bill is a member of the photography club and chair of the subcommittee at Rose Court, the continuing care neighborhood at Linden Ponds, where his wife lived while she was ill. In his role leading the subcommittee, Bill liaises between the Rose Court staff and community members to facilitate continuous improvements. He says he was very pleased with the care his wife received while there and says the staff are excellent. Meanwhile, the Thursday Nighters continue to entertain themselves and others as they expand their repertoire with practiced songs for their weekly performances. We never intended to become anything but a friendly social group. We just got together to help each other out, Bill says.