Tribune Print Share Text

Charlestown gift givers

Community celebrates life through talents, skills, and favorite pasttimes

Created date

January 8th, 2016
Charlestown resident
Charlestown resident

Chris Buppert’s outlook on life has always been simple: Be positive and find the humor in everything. So when he decided to participate in a variety show at

“I kid around with everyone I meet,” says Chris, a computer programmer who retired from the Social Security Administration. “I have only done stand-up comedy informally at my church, but I have been performing with choirs and musically my whole life, so I’m not afraid to be out in front of a crowd and make a complete fool of myself.” 

Positive rehabilitation experience

Chris moved to Charlestown at the age of 66, just four months prior to his performance in the Follies variety show. He sold his Windsor Mill townhouse after a brief stay in the community’s on-site rehabilitation center, where he recovered from a bout with pneumonia. 

“My townhouse was becoming too vertical, and I was looking for something all on one level,” says Chris. “While I was recovering, my son-in-law researched different communities and said Charlestown had the most to offer. I just love it! Now I’m playing bridge two days a week and I’ve joined a knitting group. I’m also very active in my church.”  

Whether it’s making people laugh, teaching their neighbors how to dance, or leading an aqua aerobics class, Chris is just one of hundreds of people living Charlestown’s motto: “Sharing our gifts to create a community that celebrates life.”

“Charlestown residents have a lot of talent and so much love,” says Program Assistant Kathleen Long, who organized the Follies. “They enjoy sharing their special gifts.”

Mary Evans, community resources manager at Charlestown, emphasizes that one benefit of living at a larger community like Charlestown is the diverse population of people from all walks of life. 

“Charlestown is filled with hundreds of accomplished, interesting, caring people,” says Evans. “Each of these unique individuals brings their own experiences, passions, and gifts, and the result is the inspiring, dynamic community Charlestown is today.” 

Performances in the hour-long Follies included Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?,” The Honeymooners, an Irish song vocalist, a pianist, and songs by Al Jolson and Elvis Presley.

Sharing the gift of music

Like Chris, Annette McDaniels performed in the Follies show. She got the crowd going with a polka she played on the accordion.

“I hadn’t played in a while, so I just trusted blind faith and jumped in and did it,” says Annette. “My goal was to get people stomping and romping and clapping and having a good time.”

Annette learned to play the accordion nearly two decades ago from a local music teacher majoring in the accordion at Peabody Institute in Baltimore. 

“I was in my 40s when I learned to play,” says Annette. “My father lived in Montana, and they all played the accordion. Whenever I went to visit him, it was like polka party time. I already knew how to play the piano, so it wasn’t that difficult to pick up [the accordion]. I remember listening to my teacher playing Mozart, and I would think to myself, ‘Gee I would like to do that.’”

Although Annette typically sits when she plays, the accordion, which weighs almost 19 pounds, can still be difficult to maneuver. 

“The bellows almost breathe in a way,” says Annette. “The air goes in and the sound comes out. The sound is created by whichever buttons you are pressing. The buttons on the left side are the bass line and the keyboard produces the melody. The challenge is to make it all work together. It can get heavy at times, and it takes a lot of hand-eye coordination.” 

Annette plans to keep practicing and hopes to use her music to connect with the residents in Charlestown’s on-site continuing care health services neighborhood. 

“One of the things I love to do is take my music to people,” says Annette. “I call my accordion ‘my stomach Steinway.’ I like to walk down the hallways and poke my head into open doors and if someone looks like they want company, I will play for them. It’s very therapeutic. But the one thing I try to make clear to people is I’m not a performer or even an entertainer. Music serves as a vehicle for me to connect with people.”