by Lisa Tome
After years of serving their families, their government, and their country, a half dozen local women are now spending a day each week with their hands on deck.
The weekly canasta game at the Cecil County Community Center near Rising Sun is a rich tradition and has been ongoing for about two decades.
The current players: Barbara Coale, 88, of Rising Sun, World War II Veteran Kerns, 95, of Rising Sun, Fran McKinney, 72, of Rising Sun, Evelyn Armour, 76, of North East, Doris Thomas, 88, of Conowingo, and Doris Jones, 87, of Rising Sun, can't imagine spending their Wednesdays any other way other than together playing cards for seven hours.
Collectively, they are 506 years old, but they said playing cards helps keep their minds sharp.
"I've been playing here the longest. I joined in 1989. We played at houses then," said Coale.
Hazel Jenkins who died in 2013 was a long time member. As was the late Hazel Tollenger. "She's (Jenkins) probably watching us," said Coale. "We're so old they let us play here." When the room wasn't available the group has played at both the Rising Sun and North East libraries and at an assortment of local restaurants. But they feel most at home at the community center.
They aren't there to gamble but they are serious card players. There is limited socialization.
The players explained that the card game helps them with their brain function. They've limited the game to women. They talk about their "aches and pains" and dabble in discussing politics. Kerns joined the card game within the past few years. She is admired by her fellow players for serving in the Army Nurses Corps during World War II.
"We enjoy being together every week," said Jones.
McKinney is the baby of the group. She was working but gave up her job to play more canasta. The group plays together and they also have a few other games on their schedules. They play other games at American Legion Post 194 on Mondays and Tuesday evenings some of the members also play 500 at a private home.
One of the hazards of playing with an older group is that at times substitutes are needed. Anyone interested in filling in is asked to call Coale at 410-658-1244. The women will teach you their variation of canasta.