Robin Henschel with two of her recent paintings
For Senior Gals, Rye Rec Is the Place to Be
BY MELANIE CANE
What do nearly 250 Rye women, who range in age from 60 to 101, have in common? They are all loyal members of Rye Recreation’s Senior program. Some of them have been members for over thirty years, others joined this fall. Each woman has her own reasons for attending specific activities, but the overarching theme is camaraderie and enjoyment.
Among the offerings are weekly art and exercise classes, lunches, group meetings, and lectures. There are also frequent opportunities to go on shopping and on- and off-Broadway theater trips and culinary adventures.
Rye Rec’s Nancy Fedorchak plans the programs, events, and activities. Superintendent Sally Rogol, who serves as liaison to the group, praises Fedorchak “for doing an amazing job coordinating a wide variety of activities. There’s truly something for everyone.”
Margaret Amendola, who turns 93 in December, joined Rye Rec with her husband 30 years ago. She calls herself a “life member”. Currently, she takes painting and arts and crafts classes from Kathy Pasquale, and attends lunches and meetings. “It’s great socially. I have made a lot of new friends. I love Kathy. I learn something new in every class,” she said.
Pasquale has been teaching painting and arts and crafts at Rye Rec for over 20 years and many women in the class are her groupies. One woman joked, “How else would I fill my shelves with useless knickknacks?” Other women in the class talk about the friendships they have forged semester after semester and how Pasquale, as well as their peers, inspire them on a weekly basis.
Robin Henschel, a potter and pottery instructor at Clay Art Center, learned to paint from Pasquale. “We’re not super artists, but any level can join and learn. We critique one another, offer ideas, and learn new techniques,” said Henschel, who has been taking classes at Rye Rec for seven years.
Students in Pasquale’s painting class exhibited their work at a show at the Rye Free Reading Room in August.
Another teacher with a following is Ambrose Castellano. Barbara Taylor joined Castellano’s strength and balance class seven years ago to help speed her recovery after surgery. She said, “Everybody loves Ambrose. He takes the time to come over and help you and is extremely warm and patient.” Taylor attends lunches, meetings, and various activities for “friendship, fun, and to stay in shape.” Anna Defeo, who is also in the class, says it helps her stay active and be with other seniors.
Jean Konopka, who turns 99 in February, has been a member for 30 years. “I originally joined for knitting and exercise. I used to take trips and come to Bingo breakfast. Sometimes I have trouble getting here, but other women help me. It’s such a nice group of people.”
Linda Ritacco joined 16 years ago and has been president for the last three years. She is very active outside of the program, but she goes to Broadway shows, lunches, and meetings with the seniors. As president, she helps plan and run the meetings, informs the members about what’s coming up, makes sure they sign up, and interfaces between Nancy, Sally and the members. She jokes that sometimes it’s a thankless job and says,” Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Pat Hammer, the current vice-president, moved to Rye from Harrison four years ago. She enjoys the social aspects of the program and likes to go on trips and plays cards once a week. She is also on the Rye Senior Advisory Committee and SPRYE.
When we asked longtime member Agnes Rich why she has been such an active participant, she answered with a smile: “I come for the camaraderie and because my kids want me to get out of the house!”
Fedorchak says more important than the myriad activities, “the program offers the opportunity for people to socialize, have some laughs, and forge new friendships with other retirees, while being entertained, engaged, and challenged.” She added, “I love it when moms happen to be in our office, see all the Senior flyers on the counter and say, “Wow, I didn’t realize there were so many great things for seniors to do. I can’t wait to be a senior in Rye!”
Rye Recreation doubles as the Senior Center for residents during the week. In October, SPRYE honored the senior centers in Harrison, Port Chester, Rye, and Rye Brook. Rogol said, “We couldn’t have been more thrilled to receive this honor.” She added, “Studies show that seniors who stay socially active and engaged experience a variety of benefits, including better cognitive function, good emotional and physical health, and increased longevity.”