On the first and third Thursdays of each month, if you happen to be within earshot of the St. Francis Seniors Club meeting, you can count on hearing a steady stream of happy conversation, jokes and laughter. This is a group of people who like to have fun, and they also genuinely like each other.
The group, comprising around 30 people age 55 and over, usually meets at the St. Francis Legion Post, but March 7, when this writer got to join them, they had instead gathered in the spacious dining and kitchen area of The Oaks of Lake George senior living complex.
The delicious smell of a variety of pizzas cooking in the oven filled the room as members arrived and greeted one another. A large selection of games was stacked on a table, promising plenty of post-pizza competition and entertainment.
The group has been around for a long time and continues to go strong. Ray Steinke, who has been a member since 2002 and currently serves as its president, said he doesn’t know exactly when or how the group got started. “But I know my folks were members in the late 1950s,” he said.
Steinke, incidentally, was mayor of St. Francis from 1991 to 2004.
Lou Utke, who joined the club three years ago, presented me with a smile and a long list of activities she has taken part in since joining. The list includes bingo, Polish poker, pizza parties, pool, Scrabble, cribbage, picnics and bus tours. The group has visited the Goose Lake Winery, Duluth, the Hinckley Fire Museum, the Northwest Company Fur Post, Hill House, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, St. Cloud’s Munsinger Gardens and area casinos. It has also gone on river trips and has enjoyed a variety of speakers and entertainers.
When asked which activities are favorites, Utke said it varies among the members.
Sitting beside Utke, Eva Oldenborg had a more direct answer to the question. “Eating,” she said with a laugh.
Some members who have a particular interest in common have formed sub-groups to meet at additional times to play cribbage or Scrabble.
The best part of the St. Francis Seniors Club is that everyone knows each other, talks to each other and gets along, said Utke. They enjoy each other’s diverse backgrounds. Utke interrupted our conversation briefly to warmly greet a brand new member who had just arrived.
Some of the St. Francis Seniors have been part of the group for a long time. For example, Marion Schulz joined in 1994. Annie Larson — who is fully Scottish, she points out — has been a member since 1998. The group’s oldest member is 91.
In addition to Steinke, other officers of the group include Vice President Al Dalske and Treasurer Marion Larson. Sadly, on March 1 the group unexpectedly lost its beloved secretary, Joyce Grand, who was 73. It will have to elect a replacement secretary at an upcoming meeting.
The St. Francis Seniors Club eagerly welcomes new members. If you are 55 or older, you are welcome to join the group for companionship and activities. The group meets at noon on the first and third Thursdays of each month at the St. Francis Legion Post. Social time is at noon, followed by the official meeting at 1 p.m. and then games until 3 p.m.
You don’t have to be from St. Francis to join. Many of the group’s members come from surrounding communities and some even from much farther away. Some live right at The Oaks of Lake George in Oak Grove.
If you would like more information on the St. Francis Seniors Club, call 763-753-1871.