The Scrabble School, restored and now the home of the African-American Heritage Center, doubles as the Rappahannock Senior Center for more than 50 area seniors. The school, it is written, “once grew the minds and hearts of children. Now it serves Rappahannock County residents at the opposite end of the timeline of life.”
I had the privilege of meeting some of these seniors while they were lunching at the Headmaster’s Pub and shopping at the Sperryville Schoolhouse retail establishments — part of their bi-monthly day trips. In the words of Nancy Bergman, a pastor in Warrenton and senior center manager Darcy Canton’s mom, “Rappahannock County has a heart for its senior citizens.”
That much is obvious upon meeting Darcy. A bundle of energy, she talked to me of working with the seniors, her passion evident. “I fell in love with these people. There is an unconditional love one enjoys with seniors; it makes me want to cry.”
The seniors regaled me with stories. It’s clear they love the center, the activities afforded them and cherish Darcy. They talked of shared outings from boating trips, to the Safari Park at Natural Bridge, bowling, tours of Morningside Nursery, the Virginia Chutney factory, a historical trolley tour of Fredericksburg and dining at the Pink Cadillac.
They’ve frequented many local restaurants, are particularly fond of speakers who come to the center and enjoy visits from children of all ages. Several up-and-coming Eagle Scouts recently built them a picnic area right out of a magazine. Twice a year they take longer trips, and are looking forward to an upcoming train ride out of Cumberland.
Darcy affectionately calls this group a “senior youth group.” They tell me they are “one big happy family.” Edna Sisk tells me she went to school as a youngster at the Sperryville Schoolhouse, and Nancy Jones, Ruby Swain, Peggy Gallihugh, Vivian Yancey, Thelma Martin, Irene Timbers, Jackie Porter and Sadie Norman also share vignettes. Sadie recounted her recent tour of Fredericksburg, soaked in civil war history and shared her fascination with the cannon balls still lodged in historic stone buildings.
Carol Patton and Johnny Broyles sat together in one of the booths. Johnny, a talented guitarist who frequently plays at the Brightwood General Store, hasn’t been playing much lately, Carol softly informs me. His wife recently passed away, and his eyes mist over as she’s mentioned. He reminds me of the elderly gentleman in the film “Under the Tuscan Sun,” who walks the cobblestone pathway every day placing flowers reverently in a shrine carved into the medieval stone wall.
Darcy told me that along with their trips and various activities, they also enjoy a weekly presentation where one of the seniors tells his or her life story. These seniors possess a wealth of historical knowledge and are recorded for the Rappahannock Historical Society.
The center receives grants, state and local funding — including some from the seniors’ many bake sales. Activities are therefore underwritten, as is individual and group transportation. The center is open from 10 to 2 Monday through Thursday, and welcomes new members and ideas for future activities. For more information, contact the center at 540-987-3638.