Seniors dance, socialize at second annual V-day prom

Breanne Gilpatrick

After almost half a century of being together, Chicago residents Dan and Ida Trnoska still celebrate Valentine’s Day like a new couple. They originally met the week before Valentine’s Day 47 years ago at a club on Chicago’s South Side.

“She was on her way to the ladies’ room, and I was smoking at the time,” said Dan Trnoska, 71. “I wasn’t looking, and I flicked an ash at her.”

When Ida came back from the restroom, Dan said he apologized and asked her to dance. They were married less than a year later.

This year the Trnoskas celebrated the holiday at Friday’s second annual Levy Senior Valentine Prom,co-sponsored by Omega Healthcare Inc. The couple came to the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave., for the first time, after being invited by Ida’s brother, Dan Trnoska said.

About 45 people attended the Valentine Prom, which featured music by MidNite Xpres, a three-member band playing music from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.

This year’s Valentine Prom was more casual than last year’s formal dance, said Leslie Wilson, program manager at the Levy Center.

Evanston residents and Levy Center members Barbara Squires, 75, and Gunnar Forrest, 73, said last year’s formal event seemed more like a real Prom with photographs of the couples and boutonnieres for the men. But the couple still wanted to attend because they like to dance, Forrest said.

Squires and Forrest have been together for about 20 years after meeting at a hospital while visiting mutual friends, Forrest said.

“We liked each other immediately,” Forrest said. “We hit it off immediately, and we’ve gotten along together really well ever since.”

But the dance wasn’t only for couples. Darlene Ahrendt, 84, whose husband died 16 years ago, attended the event with a group of friends. While the Evanston resident and Levy Center member couldn’t show off her moves on the dance floor because of her emphysema, she wanted to come to the dance to listen to music and to meet people.

Even though she and her husband were together for 39 years, Valentine’s Day was never a big holiday for her, Ahrendt said, sitting at a table with some people she had just met.

“When my husband was living, he used to just buy flowers,” Ahrendt said. “He wasn’t very outgoing, not like me.”

Others, like Chicago resident Ruth Treiman, 81, and Rod Polkoff, 60, came separately and met each other at the dance.

“I just asked her to dance,” said Polkoff, during the band’s break. “I could see those nice shoes wanting to dance around.”

Whether celebrating old love or meeting new friends, people like Dan Trnoska celebrated a memorable holiday at the Levy Senior Valentine Prom.

“When you come right down to it, certain people think it’s the floral and the greeting card industry and the candy companies,” Trnoska said. “I myself like Valentine’s Day regardless.”