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The prom was lovely, but Seymour Breines had already danced his last dance

Seymour Breines, 94, seated, enjoys Evan Longoria’s home run with Ray Teasdale, a Menorah Manor employee, during Wednesday’s Senior Prom for Senior Citizens day.

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times

Seymour Breines, 94, seated, enjoys Evan Longoria’s home run with Ray Teasdale, a Menorah Manor employee, during Wednesday’s Senior Prom for Senior Citizens day.

ST. PETERSBURG — When they came to get Seymour, he was still shaving.

On the table in front of him: a black plastic comb and a bottle of Old Spice.

"You about ready, Seymour?" asked Rob Goldstein, who works at Menorah Manor nursing home.

Seymour Breines, 94, nodded. He ran his right hand over his cheek, checking for stubble. "Ready," he declared. But he grabbed the comb and pulled it through his snowy hair.

Everything had to be perfect for the prom.

• • •

It started as a joke. A Pepsi commercial about bright ideas. In the ad, Rays third-baseman Evan Longoria suggests holding a senior prom for senior citizens.

"I don't know about that one," says Detroit's Johnny Damon.

But the Rays staff decided to do it.

For Wednesday's game against the Texas Rangers, the staff booked an oldies band and a Frank Sinatra impersonator; bought boutonnieres and corsages for all the seniors; crowned a king and queen of the prom; and offered group discounts for everyone over 55.

More than 2,500 seniors ordered advanced tickets.

Seymour Breines, and six other residents of Menorah Manor, had been waiting weeks for Wednesday.

• • •

Breines rolled himself right up to the rail in section 224, leaned out of his chair and looked over right field. "Oh my," he said. "This is beautiful."

While James Shields threw practice pitches, while Joe Maddon marched into the dugout, all through the National Anthem, Breines stared silently at the field.

"You okay, Seymour?" asked an aide.

Breines turned and blinked. As if he had been somewhere else and was struggling to return.

"Fine," he said slowly. "Fine. It's just ... This is all bringing back so many memories."

• • •

Seymour Breines grew up in the Bronx, in an apartment next to the old Yankee Stadium. He lived on the ground floor. But for every game, all the boys in the building would climb onto the roof.

From six flights up, he watched his idol, Babe Ruth.

"I thought those were the best seats in baseball," he said. "But this is even better."

While other seniors walked around checking out the fake Frankie, posing for photos beneath a balloon arch, Breines stayed glued to the game. It wasn't until an aide pinned a silk rose onto his Rays shirt that he even remembered about the prom.

Sure, he said. He remembered his prom.

It was in 1934. He rented a black tuxedo. He had never worn a tuxedo. His date was Helen. "She was a real nice girl." He picked her up in his Model T Ford.

He took her out for Chinese food. He had never tried Chinese food. In the gym of Textile High, in the Bronx, they danced to a jazz band. "Just slow stuff, nothing fancy." After he dropped her off that night, he cried.

"I should have tried to kiss her," he said 76 years later. "I cried because I didn't even try."

The next year, the year after Breines graduated, his mom sent him to the kosher butcher for two lamb chops. There, he saw the most beautiful girl in the world. Her dad was the butcher. Her name was Judy.

He married her at the rabbi's house on Long Island. "We were both 19. I didn't have any money," he said. "And she didn't mind."

They had a daughter, a son, then another girl. Breines built airplane parts, managed a crew of 100 riveters. He and Judy retired to Florida in 1973; moved into Menorah Manor's assisted living in 2005.

They were almost 90. But most Saturday nights, he still put on his suit; she still got "gussied up." And they would drive to the Gulfport Casino to go dancing.

"That woman loved to waltz," he said.

• • •

After the seventh inning stretch, staff from Menorah Manor were ready to go. The seven seniors protested. So the workers compromised: Okay. They could stay until the end, but then they had to get back to the nursing home for dinner.

They wouldn't have time to take everyone down onto the field for the post-game prom.

A couple of the women looked disappointed. But Breines just smiled.

He wasn't going to dance anyway. Even if he could, he said later, he wouldn't. After dancing with the same partner for 71 years, he didn't want to have to break in another.

He hasn't danced in four years. Not since his wife died.

"Besides," he said, wheeling himself out of the stadium, "I never liked dancing all that much anyway.

"I just liked holding her."

The prom was lovely, but Seymour Breines had already danced his last dance 08/18/10 [Last modified: Sunday, December 22, 2013 12:39am]

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