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IT'S THE SENIOR PROM

(ran BEACH, EAST editions)

Ten years ago, the man who would become Grace Oskey's husband waltzed right into her life.

Literally.

"I was alone for 13 years and I wanted to stay alone," Mrs. Oskey said. Then one night, at a dance in Gulfport, a dapper gentleman named Clarence approached her. After gliding across the dance floor, they decided to go out for coffee.

"I don't like to eat much after a dance, so I said, "How about we split a BLT?' " she recalled. "He said, "Oh, that's my favorite sandwich.'

"That did it," Mrs. Oskey said with a smile. "We've been sharing ever since."

The Oskeys were among more than 300 people who attended a Senior Prom _ for senior citizens _ Saturday night at the Gulfport Casino. The event was sponsored by the Pasadena Presbyterian Church Youth Ministry.

Youth director Bruce Chick said his young charges, who attended the dance in elegant tuxes and ball gowns, donated the money raised from their Christmas tree sale to put on the prom.

"Instead of just keeping that money for ourselves and going to Disneyland, we thought, what can we do for others? What would Jesus do?"

The dancing, the punch and hors d'oeuvres, even the valet parking and corsages for all the ladies, were free. Youth group members would not accept even a tip for parking cars.

Many of Saturday's dancers marveled at the considerate youngsters who worked so hard to give them a night out.

"We love to dance," said Betty Humphreys, who was sitting with her dance partner, Walter Forys. They were taking a break and nibbling at snacks.

"He is an excellent dancing partner," she said.

"Oh, now, come, on," he replied, perhaps a bit bashful at the attention.

She wouldn't let up.

"The tango is his specialty," she said. "He is so good."

It was about all Forys could take.

"Oh, come on, stop telling people that," he said with a laugh. "You're going to give me a complex."

The prom featured big-band favorites as well as new dancing crazes.

Ralph Fisher didn't quite get the swing of the Macarena at first, but his sister, Donna Cochran, helped him along.

Besides, they figured, a dance like that leaves plenty of room for improvisation.

"This is a marvelous, marvelous thing the youngsters have done for us older people," she said.

During lulls in the music, awards for the best dancing couple, the best dressed couple and the most senior senior were presented. Florence and Vito Cascia were crowned Prom King and Queen.

"I think the children who did this are excellent," Mrs. Cascia said. She had just moved to a new school at the time of her high school prom, so she didn't go. It was a special delight, then, to finally be a prom queen.

The night was also special for Jerry Griffith. As couples danced to a Glenn Miller song, he stood off to the side, listening and musing.

"This was popular when I was overseas during the war," he said. "It just takes me back." He and his wife of 46 years, Winifred, used to love to dance. He lost her two years ago. Saturday was only the second time he has been out since.

"I went out once before and I was miserable," he said. "It was too soon after she died."

Griffith was ready Saturday.

"I just wanted to see what it was like. And music, I love music," he said. As he watched couples spin to the Patsy Cline song Crazy, he pondered whether he might venture out onto the dance floor himself.

"I don't know," he said. "If I saw somebody I know, I might."

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