Uss Saunders Retirement Home Visits Hawaii On Fantasy Cruise

Posted: October 30, 1988

More than 100 residents of Saunders House donned white sailor caps and raised champagne toasts Tuesday as they began a two-day cruise to Hawaii.

Who cared that they never left the grounds of Lankenau Hospital.

"In the past, we have taken trips to New Orleans and a dude ranch. This is our third cruise to Hawaii," said Alberta Dunn, activities director for the retirement and long-term health care facility, which was established in 1864.

Dunn, who has been with Saunders House for 20 years, said the parties were always popular.

"I love planning and attending parties, and our residents enjoy the festive atmosphere that parties create," Dunn said.

Volunteers and staff encouraged residents to sing and dance at the tables and in the aisles.

Margaret Baker, 83, who has traveled to Hawaii, said, "The music today brings it all back to me."

She advised a visitor: "It was a wonderful place to visit; you should go there."

Dietary director Phyllis Schuster was responsible for the varied and delectable foods served on the cruise for residents, staff and visitors.

"We used imagination and cooperation to make it all work for the residents," said Schuster.

The dining hall was decorated with blue and white balloons and orange table

cloths. All the windows in the dining hall were covered with colorful beach scenes painted by food services supervisor Gregory Jones.

The average age of the residents who embarked on the cruise was 86. That's the average age of Saunders House guests.

Milton Jacobs, executive director for Saunders House, was clad in a captain's uniform as he welcomed everyone on board the USS Saunders.

The departure luncheon was Philadelphia-oriented, with hoagies, cheesesteaks, meatball sandwiches, onion rings, French fries, water ice and, of course, soft pretzels.

"Diets don't mean much during special occasions," said Dunn. "We cheat a little for the parties."

During lunch, the residents were entertained by the Rev. William Stebbins, pastor of the Schwenkfelder Church in Norristown, who sang Hawaiian songs. The Rev. Frank McKenzie of Olivet UCC Church in Norristown was a comedian.

Mr. Stebbins surprised his 83-year-old-mother, May, a resident of Saunders House, by taking the cruise as the ship's version of Don Ho.

Evelyn Harding, who said she was 90 1/2, especially liked the onion rings that were served. Ruth Haldeman, 84, said that the entertainment was fine, and that it helped with digestion.

Mary Schminky, 83, liked choosing the food she wanted - a rare treat - and the music.

"I loved the hoagie," she said.

After the luncheon, the musical entertainment continued upstairs in the chapel, followed by a film, A Trip to Hawaii.

Tuesday evening, at the Captain's Ball, the residents dined on a standing steam roast, baked Hawaiian ham and assorted chocolate and fruit cakes and pies.

Another edible attraction was the watermelon fruit basket created by food preparer Michael Henderson. He spent several hours carving the basket and filling it with kiwis, red and green grapes, strawberries, honeydew balls, pineapples and oranges. He added a bed of lettuce and white sails with the ship's name.

After arriving in Hawaii on Wednesday, the residents enjoyed the captain's masquerade party in the afternoon. Costumes and masks were worn by the staff and residents.

The final party before the USS Saunders set sail for home was a Hawaiian luau, held in the dining room. The residents wore leis as they sipped pina coladas and feasted on a seafood buffet. Baked Alaska was the dessert.

Gertrude Kirkpatrick, 82, said she enjoyed the trip. "I've never been to Hawaii before" she said. "I like the food and the music. For me, this was a good way to get there."

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