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Group brings together seniors with active lives

July 12, 2005|by MARIE GILBERT /Staff Writer

Seventy-year-old Jane Koontz defies the stereotypical image of a senior citizen.

She is a truck driver for Hub City Express, travelling 325 miles a day, volunteers as a clown for charitable events, and does side jobs for a local television station, banks and the U.S. government.

"I'm not sitting around in a rocking chair," the Hagerstown resident said. "I like to stay active."

That's why she is a member of Tri-State Singles, an area organization for people 55 and older.

"It's a chance to relax and spend some time with people my own age," Koontz said.

Sunday afternoon, members gathered at the Smithsburg Lions Club Park to celebrate the club's 10th anniversary.

According to Virginia Bentz, 73, of Hagerstown, the group came into existence "because there was nothing like it."

"There are so many different organizations out there," Bentz said. "But 10 years ago, there was nothing that focused on the senior citizen who is not married."

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So she and the late Julia Luhouse started laying the groundwork for such an organization.

"We began talking to friends and spreading the word and before long there was a lot of interest," Bentz said.

Today, the group boasts a membership of about 50 individuals from Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"Some people join because they are looking for dates and companionship," Bentz said. "Others are looking to enjoy activities with fellow seniors. Regardless, everybody has fun. This is a group where friendships are formed."

Jerry Gettler, 81, of Hagerstown, said he has been a member of Tri-State Singles for about five or six years.

"I was new to the area and thought this would be a good way to meet people my age," he said. "It was the right decision."

Recently, Gettler, who flew a P-38 in World War II, was honored with a medal for his bravery while serving in the military.

"A lot of people from Tri-State Singles attended the ceremony," he said.

Gettler also has developed a special friendship with fellow member, Catherine Kerns, 71.

"I had been in an accident and broke my arm," Gettler explained. "I needed rides to the doctor, so Catherine began driving me wherever I needed to go. After that, things kind of took off."

Bentz said the group is constantly attracting new members, including Patty Countryman, 55, of Hagerstown.

"I thought it would be a nice way to get out and meet people and share in activities with people my own age," Countryman said. "I like to stay active. I don't like to sit still."

Judy Morehead, 69, of Hagerstown, said the group is more of a fellowship than a club.

"It's a very friendly atmosphere," she said. "And even though I'm now married, my husband, Dewey, and I still participate with the group. We've made a lot of friends here."

Bentz said the potluck picnic that the group was enjoying Sunday afternoon is just one of the many activites the members enjoy on a regular basis.

"We go out to eat twice a week," she said. "And we do a lot of charitable activities. Whatever we do, we try to make it affordable for everyone involved. That's important for seniors."

Bentz said the group consists of people from all walks of life.

"We're a very diverse group," she said. "Some of us are retired. Some of us are still working. We all lead interesting lives and have interesting stories to tell."

For information about Tri-State Singles, call 1-301-739-8990, 1-717-762-4524 or 301-824-5200.

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