The queen of Sunday’s Ascension Council on Aging Senior Prom said attending parties like the prom keep her young at heart.
Clarence Rome, 84, and Barbara Laiche, 75, were crowned king and queen of the Ascension Council on Aging Senior Prom.
As she walked to the stage for the crowning, Laiche said, “Don’t give up. I’m 75. Take pictures. My kids won’t believe this.”
Laiche, who graduated from high school in 1957, remembers her high school prom being decorated with hearts.
Sunday’s theme was Mystical Masquerade and used decorations from East Ascension High School’s prom.
“We stay young this way. I get to see friends. There’s a good, clean atmosphere. I love the music. I like to dance a little. … I used to dance instead of eating,” Laiche said.
Rome, who did not wish to dance, laughed, saying, “I’m a churchgoing man. I’m having a nice time.”
The sixth annual Senior Prom was held for senior citizens ages 60 and up by the Council on Aging along with the East Ascension Rotary Club.
East Ascension High School loans its prom decorations each year for the event, which followed the school’s own prom on Saturday at the Gonzales Civic Center. Approximately 100 tickets were sold for COA’s Senior Prom, COA Director Darlene Schexnayder said.
The Senior Prom brought the seniors back to their high school years, complete with boutonnieres, cake, photo booths and the crowning of the prom king and queen.
For the prom, senior citizens from across the parish were offered transportation to the Gonzales Civic Center, said Lisa Bacala, who has been involved with both the COA and the East Ascension Rotary Club for the past four years.
Schexnayder first had the idea for the prom several years ago when she became director of the COA.
“I was looking for something new for the clients. This was something that had been done in other states,” Schexnayder said.
For the first prom, the COA coupled with the Leadership Ascension Class. In the following year, the East Ascension Rotary got involved, Schexnayder said.
Now, it is a group effort from various organizations in the community. EAHS loans its decorations and crowns for the event.
Bridget Hanna, the president of the East Ascension Rotary Club, organized the provision of the food and drinks. This year, the Jambalaya Association donated food. Thirty members of the East Ascension Rotary Club volunteered as servers. Families of Rotary members and volunteers from the Rotary InterAct Club came to support the effort, Hanna said. Mike Waguespack provided free disc jockey services.
“This is a great event. It gives them (the senior citizens) the opportunity of getting out. Some people have never had their own prom,” Hanna said. “Just to be able to see the seniors be able to come out here and enjoy something they wouldn’t usually be able to enjoy puts a smile on your face. We look forward to this event every year,” Hanna said.
Partygoers were profuse in their praise and appreciation for the COA and the prom.
“It’s a nice melting pot of people here,” said Juanita Bacala, the mother-in-law of Lisa Bacala and the former principle of EAHS. “This is a senior citizen social group. Nobody has any special position. We just socialize together. Each of us brings a different background, different interests to the group.”
Juanita Bacala graduated in 1952 from a high school in her east Texas hometown.
“I remember my prom,” she said. “It was the first time anybody had ever worn a strapless dress to the prom. It was very scandalous. Oh! How I loved that dress.”
Dorothy Cooper, who graduated in 1949 in Denver, Colorado, and later moved here with her husband, said, “I like being with my friends. Anyone that wants to get up and dance — we do what we feel like we want to do. We’re not being judged.”
The senior prom was not just fun for its participants but also for its workers. Loretta Johnson works at the COA office in Donaldsonville and drove seniors to the prom in Gonzales.
“I love working with the seniors,” Johnson said. “That’s my passion, working with my elders. They went through a lot. They teach me so much. They’re our family.”
“It’s so rewarding to see that we can keep their hopes and dreams alive. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean your life can’t be full,” Lisa Bacala said.
For more information on the Council on Aging, visit ascensioncoa.org.