Senior Moments

By Pam Daniel Photography by Ted Mase March 1, 2011


When six-year-old Lillette Jenkins Wisner began visiting a neighbor and spending hours playing her piano, the neighbor offered to give the family the piano if they’d give Lillette music lessons. Trained as a classical pianist, Wisner, now 87, branched out into jazz and toured the world during World War II playing to the troops (she remembers a 1942 stop in Sarasota, a little town distinguished by pretty beaches and not much else). She went on to play with greats like Duke Ellington, make recordings and even had a part written for her in All My Children. Music is still her joy, she says: “It’s all we have that reaches soul to soul.” These days, she does music therapy at Senior Friendship Centers. “I tell them to get up and put a little zip in their hip,” she says. “It’s like magic—they start singing and dancing and having a good time.”


As an internist in Massachusetts, Dr. Albert Resnick was famous for racing up the hospital stairs on his way to his next patient, usually with nurses trying to get him to sign order forms in full pursuit. When he and his wife moved here in 1989, he thought he’d slow down, but, “I didn’t love retirement,” he says. “Medicine changes so rapidly; if you want to keep up, you need to keep going.” Keep going he did. For more than a decade, he’s been medical director for the Senior Friendship Center, seeing patients several days a week and on call 24-7. A voracious consumer of medical journals and a gifted diagnostician, he’s also a beloved mentor to hundreds of medical and nursing students who’ve trained at the center. And at 88, he’s still “a little hyperactive,” says the center’s Jane Icely. “He runs down the hall! Sometimes we have to tell him to slow down.”


Stop into Denny’s on the South Trail on Sundays, and you’ll see a tiny dynamo balancing trays, busing tables and keeping customers smiling with her jokes and conversation. At 88, Rosie Mobilia may be the oldest waitress in the entire Denny’s chain. She started out as a hostess 14 years ago, but she soon tired of greeting and seating people “while everybody else made the money.” Energetic and determined, she quickly built a loyal cadre of regulars. “I love my customers,” she says, and they return the favor, even calling to check on her if she misses a day. Though she admits to sometimes feeling tired when she gets home, Mobilia says she just rests for a bit and then heads out for her regular Sunday-night rummy game. “I was going to quit when I was 80,” she says, “but I decided I didn’t want to sit at home and knit.”


At 88, Dr. Eugenie Clark, who founded Mote Marine Laboratory in 1955, leads dive trips to Papua New Guinea and other locales to study fish species. And she has an office at Mote, where she frequently works when she’s in Sarasota. Known as “The Shark Lady” for her groundbreaking research about how sharks learn, Clark has studied sharks from submersibles in water as deep as 12,000 feet. Last year, she was named to the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame and also received the Explorer’s Club Medal—the club’s highest honor. And on her 87th birthday, she tested a new type of submersible vehicle 200 feet deep in Lake Tahoe. Clark says, “I never let being a woman stop me from trying to do something I really wanted to do, especially if it concerned the underwater world. That drive to understand the sea life I love keeps me always learning.”—Nadine Slimak

NAT 93

Nat Krate began drawing at the age of four, but when the Great Depression forced him to drop out of high school to help support his family, he had to put his interest in art on hold. At 62, after a successful career in advertising, he decided—with “the encouragement of my sweetheart wife”—to start painting. What he thought would be a hobby turned into a seven-day-a-week consuming passion and led to awards, exhibitions in museums throughout the Southeast and a faculty position at Ringing College of Art and Design. Krate, 93, and his wife recently moved into The Fountains retirement community, where he’s helping to set up a studio for the residents and will teach art classes. He still spends two or three hours a day painting. What drives him? “I’m a late bloomer,” he says. “I call my work storytelling, and I still have so many stories to tell.”

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