Someone 2 Know; Mary Theresa Hennings
In this week's Someone 2 Know, meet an 82-year-old Reno woman who says slowing down is not for her, she'd rather be performing.
The “Third Age” or golden years of adulthood are typically the ones after retirement, when many folks start working less and relaxing more. In this week's Someone 2 Know, we meet a Reno woman who says slowing down is not for her, she'd rather be performing.
We catch up with 82 year-old Mary Theresa Hennings at the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in Reno.
When we arrive, Mary Theresa is resplendent in a yellow gown, a soft white boa and a big, warm smile. The vets have gathered in the rec. room; some in wheelchairs, some accompanied by nurses.
Mary Theresa begins by asking what branch of the armed services the men are in and hands go up as she lists them off; "How many are in the Navy? How about the Army?", says Mary moving through the group.
The octogenarian loves performing for the vets at the VA in Reno, and they love her! "This is the second time I've seen her and she hits the punch lines. She's unbelievable" says as smiling James Lewis Delisle, who served in US Coast Guard.
About those punch lines...Mary Theresa always warms up the crowd with a few jokes. Saucy ones. She lets out a woo-hoo and wiggles her hips, too. Again, the crowd cheers and laughs.
It’s just what the doctor ordered.
"She's got the sailor hat, she's got the song. So, it brings back the memories, which is very important with a lot of our veterans here" says Joanne Farris, the recreation therapy supervisor at the VA.
The white sailor hat is part of her finale – we get to see it later.
Farris says the socialization Mary Theresa provides is vital for these vets, many of whom are recovering from an illness or surgery. "In the process of them coming to the performance,” Ferris explains, “It actually gets them up, so they do get some physical as well".
Mary is devoted to her cause; "I think it's wonderful to make our military happy - they put themselves out to guard our country". Hennings has a scrapbook full of memories from decades of entertaining; pages of newspaper clippings, photos and letters.
"I've been performing since… I started when I was two and a half years old. My mother wanted me to be a movie star" says Mary Theresa.
As a younger woman, she performed on military bases.
"Well, because I was married three times, and they were all military and my daughter says 'wiggle your hips when you say that - I served my country well’ " says Mary Theresa, blushing a bit and laughing.
Mary Theresa loves the songs of Doris Day and Betty Hutton, but now lip synchs instead of singing because she says her voice isn't what it used to be... But her love of service remains as strong as ever
"It gives my heart flutters and thank you, God - so much,” says Mary Theresa, “For letting me have such a beautiful life!”.
Now, you don't have to sing and dance to help at the VA - the center is always looking for volunteers to interact with the vets.
If you're interested in helping:
Anyone wanting to volunteer at VA can call Stephanie Torian at 775-829-5662.
If you have an idea for a Someone 2 Know (#Someone2Know):
Email Andi Guevara at Aguevara@ktvn.com