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Spectacular Seniors - Ladue News: Special Features

Spectacular Seniors

Better With Age

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Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 10:43 pm, Tue Aug 9, 2011.

Marge and Bob Brightfield

    It’s hard to pin the Brightfields down for an interview. “Let’s see,” Marge says, rifling through her calendar. “Wednesday morning might work, but I’ve got something going on at 9, and Bob and I play tennis at 11:30, then I’m driving one of my granddaughters to art class later in the day…” This in itself isn’t unusual, until you learn that Marge is 86 years old, and Bob, 92.

    The Brightfields, who live in Webster Groves, met 60 years ago at a figure skating rink. Both are still avid athletes. Marge, a former secretary, taught skating for 30 years at various county parks. “We play indoor tennis year round, at least twice a week,” says Bob, a retired lithographer. “I still ice skate occasionally, when my ankle isn’t acting up.”

    Their four kids and nine grandchildren play tennis, too. “We recently won the regional Tennis Family of the Year from the U.S. Tennis Association,” Marge reports. Bob adds, “Sports teaches leadership and independence. So I never worried about any of the kids when they went away to school, because I knew they could take care of themselves.”

    The Brightfields attribute their infectious energy and high spirits to their lifelong interest in physical fitness. “But there’s more to it than that: We also enjoy going to the symphony, the theater and the movies. We’re not just sitting around waiting for the grandkids to visit, though we love it when they do.”

     One of the Brightfields’ grandsons, who teaches yoga in Washington, D.C., uses Marge as an example to his students. “He taught me a few moves the last time he was in town,” Marge says. “Now he says to his students, If my 86-year-old grandmother can stand on her head, so can you.” 

    Staying active is essential for a happy retirement, the Brightfields believe. “You’ve got to have a reason to get up in the morning,” Marge says. “It makes sense to stay involved with your family, your community, and whatever interests and intrigues you.”—Tony DiMartino

Harris Frank

    When Harris Frank’s wife passed away in 2009, he decided that he wanted to do something in her memory, but the idea of a bench or a building didn’t appeal to him. “I wanted to establish a living memorial for her, rather than a sticks-and-stones kind of thing,” he says. Then a friend told him about the ‘summer slide,’ a common problem where students lose some of the reading ability that they gained during the school year.

    Frank, now 85, went to City Academy, where he had been involved for about three years, and with the help of the national education organization OASIS, put together a six-week intergenerational summer tutoring program. The program launched last summer, and the tutors were mostly seniors who met individually with students four days per week. “The program was an astounding success,” Frank says. “Every kid retained his cognitive and reading skills, and two-thirds increased them substantially. Just as important is what it did for the lives of these tutors—they loved it, and most of them are still tutoring.”

    The program will be expanded this year, opening in nine schools in Pittsburgh and several districts in New York. Frank hopes other St. Louis schools will adopt the program. “It’s very heartening that this has happened so quickly,” he says. The program also served his initial purpose, which was to create a living monument to his wife. “She would have liked it,” he says. “It’s meant a lot to the kids and to the seniors, so it was just what I was looking for—only a lot bigger.”

    The tutoring initiative is only one of several big projects Frank has been involved with over the years. He also was one of the main forces behind the national Senior Olympics. A St. Louis version of the games started in the late ’70s, and Frank noticed that there were people who would go from city to city each summer, participating in local games. He came up with the idea for national games, with the first nationwide event taking place in St. Louis in 1987.

    Frank, a lifetime board member for the Senior Olympics, also does pro bono work for other groups, including Memory Care Home Solutions and Cancer Support Community. Additionally, he has worked with commercial real estate company Solon Gershman for more than 40 years. He was recently honored with the Ageless—Remarkable St. Louisan Award by St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System. “It’s a certain amount of luck,” he says. “If the Lord chose to lead me around this long with all my marbles, there must be a reason. You’ve got to keep going.” —Lisa Watson

Nancy Kranzberg

    Was it a board meeting? On stage at the Sheldon? The Jazz Festival? Or hiking in Patagonia?

    If you’re trying to remember where you’ve seen Nancy Kranzberg before, it could have been at any of these places. And if you don’t recognize her face, you might recognize her voice. For 15 years Kranzberg has been host of a weekly radio program promoting the St. Louis art scene on KDHX-FM.

    Her teachers at University City High School introduced Kranzberg to art, but her love of singing began earlier. “I have loved to sing since I was in grade school,” she says. “I was in high school musicals, and as a student at Washington University, I had the great privilege to sing with the civic choir at Carnegie Hall,” she says. Kranzberg’s singing career was renewed in 2005, when she teamed up with pianist Tom George, chancellor of University of Missouri-St. Louis. “We sing all over, mostly for charitable events.”

    A lifelong patron of the arts, Kranzberg has served on the boards of the St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and Jazz at the Bistro, to name a few. She and her husband of 42 years work as a team on behalf of the arts community. “Ken is a kind, loving person and he puts up with a lot of stuff from me!” she laughs. In 2008, the Kranzbergs received the Distinguished Service Award in recognition of their support of the University of Missouri-St. Louis

    Over the years Kranzberg accumulated a sizeable collection memorabilia recognizing her contributions to the community. Asked about it, her reply was thoughtful and mischievous. “Well, that stuff is in my office and once in awhile I look at it,” she says. “I’m a little like Silas Marner—I go creeping around the corner and say ‘Ah ha ha!’ It’s fun!” A close friend tells Kranzberg that she is “her own best audience.”

    Turning serious, Kranzberg says, “You know, you don’t do things to be rewarded. Ken and I believe in giving back—we talked about the importance of it when we were first married, and we’ve instilled it in our kids, too.”  —Joan Lerch

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