Artist, seniors make legacy

July 22, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - During interviews with the subjects of her photo exhibit, "Seniors' Legacy" artist and author Helen Young King asked a very pertinent question: "What are you doing that's kept you out of the nursing home or the cemetery?"

The common thread to the answers from the 76 senior citizens represented in the exhibit is that they help themselves by helping others, she said.

"Giving back is a big part of life," said King, who began the project more than a year ago. "When you're involved in your community, you're happier and healthier and more fulfilled," she said.


"It's a pleasure to help other people," said Charlotte Mabel Hawbaker, 79, of St. Thomas, Pa., one of the seniors profiled in the exhibit. Asked by King to give herself a descriptive title, Hawbaker came up with "Tote and Carry."

"When we have a banquet or something, I'm always toting or carrying something," Hawbaker said. Chambersburg Hospital, the American Heart Association, the Bloodmobile and the VFW are some of the organizations for which she volunteers, she said.

Frances K. Cutchall, 79, of Chambersburg, volunteers with Hawbaker at the hospital and also assists state and federal retirees with health-care coverage issues.

Part of the exhibit, featuring seniors from Franklin, Adams and Cumberland counties, is on display through July 31 in the Village Square lobby at the Menno Haven retirement community. King said it will be displayed at retirement centers, schools, hospitals and other venues over the next two years.

"The criteria was that they had to be 75 and actively contributing to their community," the New Cumberland, Pa., artist said. King said she contacted hundreds of individuals and organizations seeking nominees for the exhibit.

"The idea is to change people's attitudes and beliefs about what growing older means, since we're becoming a nation of older people," said King, 75.

"So many people have the belief that at 65 it's on the couch with the clicker," she said.

Esther F. Ward, 86, of Fayetteville, Pa., said one of her friends wondered what to do after retirement.

"Follow me for a week. I'll show you what to do," Ward told the friend. Her descriptive title is "Friendly Pianist" and she lives up to it by playing at the hospital, senior centers, nursing homes and other venues.

"Whenever somebody wants to have an old-time singalong, I know most of the songs," she said.

With each photo in the exhibit, the subjects provided a 50-word "philosophical statement," King said.

"I enjoy restructuring and renewing my life to experience the satisfaction of accomplishment," wrote John R. Alberts, 76, of Fayetteville.

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