I have been volunteering at the Culver City Senior Center since 2003. At that time, I’d been laid off from a lucrative job in publishing, and was at loose ends.
Not knowing what to do with my time, I thought I’d initiate a Tuesday karaoke program at the center. Since it began, it has become very popular.
In fact, I have met many seniors who have discovered their inner Buble or Streisand by coming to karaoke. Many used to be professional singers. Some have sung on the radio or TV. But there’s one person who has truly touched my heart and the hearts of many. Her name is Ruth Greenspan.
Ruth was one of these undiscovered singers who only sang at home. Her husband, Ernie was privy to her talents, but no one else was aware of her rare gifts.
She began coming to the center around 2004, and stumbled upon our karaoke show. At first I thought she was just an avid fan, as she sat, mesmerized by the standards we sang, often mouthing the words, or humming along to Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Ella or Rosemary Clooney.
Then we discovered the truth-Ruth loved to sing. We encouraged her to give karaoke a try. She was hesitant, but soon, she was up there, belting out her ballads with such a force of emotion. No doubt she was singing to her departed Ernie, who had passed away only a few years ago.
October 1st is Ruth’s 91st birthday. The songs still fill her heart, and on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays, you can find her at Center singing. We call her our Lena Horne, thanks to snappy style and her distinctive New York accent.
I don’t know what it’s like to turn 91. But I do know that Ruth possesses a resiliency that is surpassed by none. I’m sure the music keeps her going. And personally, I look forward to every Tuesday, when I am lucky enough to hear her sing.