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Published: Friday, 10/7/2005

Bedford's seniors mourn the loss of 6 friends

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - Six roses occupied six empty places yesterday at the Bedford Senior Citizens Center.

About 80 of the center's members gathered at noon for their daily luncheon and surrounded the vacant table. Missing were JoAnn Manore, Joyce Rochowiak, Beverly Becker, Viola Urbaniak, and Virginia Ciesinski, all of Bedford Township, and Wilma LeJeune, of Toledo.

The women often dined together at the center, but a Sunday boating accident on Lake George in New York, during an East Coast fall colors tour with other seniors, snuffed out their lives and created a significant vacuum at the center, where they were vital members.

Mrs. Manore was the center's secretary for 30 years. Mrs. Ciesinski and Mrs. Urbaniak helped run the center's strawberry festival every spring and the trash and treasure component of the annual fall bazaar. Mrs. Becker was one of the center's better card players, while Mrs. Rochowiak often invited her friend, Mrs. LeJeune, to join her at the center. All of the women frequently traveled together.

"We definitely will miss them as we go through this process. Others are stepping up to take care of things," said Sharon Throm, who maintains an office at the center as director of the Bedford schools' community education program.

Already, Connie Velliquette has been filling in for Mrs. Manore in the office, while Pat Jacobs, the center's clerk, has been working overtime.

Still, the void is significant.

In normal years, Mrs. Urbaniak and Mrs. Ciesinski would have spent this week preparing for the bazaar, which runs Oct. 14-15. They were experts, according to Ms. Throm, in finding discarded items that others wanted to buy.

The women always converted the center's pool room into a flea market, which their friend, Pearl Albert-Green, believes used to annoy some of the center's male pool players.

Not this week.

Ted Beck, one of the players, told Mrs. Albert-Green that he and the other men would get the room ready for whoever would be taking over for Mrs. Urbaniak and Mrs. Ciesinski.

"He had the biggest tear in his eye when he told me. It was like that was their tribute to them," Mrs. Albert-Green said.

One of Mrs. Manore's talents was organizing the center's numerous field trips.

"She went along on every trip and made everyone feel so great. She knew everyone by name and always had something nice to say to [them]," Mrs. Albert-Green said.

Ironically, Mrs. Manore joined the other women as a tourist on the East Coast journey, which was organized by a senior center in Trenton, Mich. In all, 20 seniors died in the accident, which remains under investigation.

Ms. Throm said after a day of mourning on Monday, the center returned on Tuesday to its normal activities, such as card-playing, tai-chi classes, quilting, and line dancing.

"We felt this is something [the women] would have wanted," she said. "These are active older adults. They are busy volunteering and they are very much engaged and living their lives."

Area ministers and social workers have been present all week to counsel any grieving members, according to Ms. Throm.

The center will hold a memorial service Oct. 23 at 2 p.m.

Contact George J. Tanber at gtanber@theblade.com or 734-241-3610.



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