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Wisconsin church holds prom for seniors

  • Article by: HILLARY GAVAN
  • Associated Press
  • August 25, 2014 - 12:05 AM

BELOIT, Wis. — Irma Evans, 89, has been waiting a long time to go to prom.

She still remembers when a segregated one-room school house in the woods of Mississippi was going to host a prom. She had her pink taffeta dress bought and ready for the big night.

But then her mother died the night before prom and she just couldn't bring herself to go, the Beloit Daily News (http://bit.ly/1tltg3i ) reported.

She said she kept that dress stowed away for years, as she later became a teacher in the one-room school of 59 children, and when she moved to Beloit in the 1950s. But after many years, she finally gave it away, as she did her hope of getting near anything like a prom again.

But on Saturday evening, all of that changed for her, thanks to New Zion Baptist Church's Senior Prom, titled "The Renaissance: Remember the Times." Seniors in gowns, heels and tuxedos were treated to a disc jockey, dinner, dancing, raffles, prizes, goodie bags and even a coronation of the prom king and queen — Elder Marshall Kent and his wife, Martha. Younger volunteers, such as "chaperones" Tiffany Cavitt and Robert Givhan, helped emcee the event and tote treats.

There was purple punch from a fountain, red velvet cupcakes on tiers and a photographer for all of the special moments. Although the seniors were a bit shy about dancing, there were some surprise moves from Pastor James Ivy and a few "chaperones" who did the electric slide. There was some "Blueberry Hill" playing, as well as a waltz or two.

Evans said she'd been planning her prom debut for more than six months. Her niece from Chicago drove in to do her hair and bring her a lavender dress and shoes. Evans ate a spot of grits, oatmeal and yogurt in the morning, saving room for the prom feast of baked chicken.

Evans had asked her friend, Obediah McClelland, 75, who does yard work for her, to come with.

McClelland, who grew up in Louisiana, said he didn't make it to his high school prom either, as he quit school at age 12 to help his family farm cotton, peanuts, potatoes and corn with a plow and mule. He said he had fallen so far behind in school that he was scared to return.

Although McClelland said he was going to refrain from dancing — he only dances when moved by the Holy Spirit — Evans wasn't shy about busting a few moves as she was pushed in her wheelchair for a special group photo.

Christabel Johnson, 97, said she went to her prom at Beloit High School in 1936. Her daughter, Beverly Bond, had brought her mother to the prom, noting her mother likes to have a good time.

"When the car is moving, she wants to be in it," Bond said.

"I want to get out there and dance," Johnson said.

Brenda Garrett was sending her hubby off to prom with 79-year-old Clotie Wilson, until she found out Clotie Wilson was wearing a red dress.

"I said 'maybe I should join you all'," Brenda joked.

Max said he enjoyed having his two best ladies, both dressed in a bit of red, with him. The Garretts bought a red corsage for Clotie Wilson, who was donning a slim-fitting satin dress with rosebuds and lattice on the back.

Ladies Floyd Givhan, 72, Pauline Pipes, 73, Emma Harrell, 65, and Annie Evans, 62, were all dolled up and ready for a night out. A few of them had been to their high school proms, joking they actually had dates back then. Givhan, however, said it was her first one. She was showing off her navy dress, and silver shoes, nails, jewels and little clutch.

Mary Adams, 70, fondly recalled her high school prom in 1961 in Tennessee, where she had a pink and burgundy dress special-ordered.

"I had a long gown and a flower to match," Adams said. "I feel happy to be here (tonight). I hope we have it every year."

Her friend Delvia Johnson, however, hadn't been to prom and said she too was glad to be there Saturday.

"I thought I'd step out for a bit," said Walter Knight, before Alberta Francis invited him for a dance.

The prom is one of several activities geared for seniors this year. New Zion is focusing on seniors in 2014, the middle generation in 2015 and youth in 2016, as it prepares for its 100th anniversary in April of 2017.

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Beloit Daily News

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