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USO dance at Sewickley Valley YMCA evokes memories of bygone era

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
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Ernie and Mary Tucci take the floor during last year’s Sewickley Valley YMCA USO dance.

Dan Fryz said the big bands and the World War II generation were part of the greatest era in history.

Fryz, of Moon, who is in his mid 50s, said that's why he loves the idea of the USO dances at Sewickley Valley YMCA. He and his wife, Celeste — Y membership services specialist — enjoyed attending the first USO dance last year and plan to go to this year's event Saturday.

Fryz loved the big band music, which he said is kind of lost now but is still “terrific,” with “horns complementing everything.” He said it was great to see displays of the World War II uniforms, talk with older veterans and hear their stories.

“These guys were there, with the bombs exploding over their heads. It was great talking to them about their life's path and what they did when the got home,” he said.

“They came home and didn't complain. They went back to work and were able to adjust to normal living again. They were very strong people.”

Fryz said the people of that generation had a strong work ethic, which isn't as prevalent today.

“I don't think that era or that generation could ever be repeated. They were a rare breed of people.”

YMCA members who are ages 55 and older can attend the event for free, and nonmembers will pay $3.

“It's a great event. The atmosphere is wonderful. You can't beat the price for an evening out, and you get to hear stories and eat and dance,” he said.

Bruce Newell, 81, of Quaker Heights, attended the dance last year with friends from his Y water aerobics class. The Navy admiral who retired in 1984 said the event celebrates those people who served in the military.

“I and others who served felt very honored that night,” he said.

He said most of the music was slow and geared toward the age group, but there were some fast tunes to which “some of the people there could really cut the rug.”

Newell said he liked the music, to which he could waltz and do the cha-cha.

“The USO dance is just one of the wonderful things the Y does for senior citizens, and we really enjoy the fellowship,” he said.

Karen Hallisey, Y chief operating officer, said before planning the first event, she; Celeste Fryz; and Barb Herman, Y membership manager, were talking with a Coast Guard veteran about a trip to Washington.

“He mentioned how nice the old USO dances were, so we decided to give it a try,” she said.

About 60 participated last year, and the YMCAreceived sponsorships to pay for the costs for members and to keep them low for nonmembers.

“Everyone had so much fun and asked if we were going to do it again, so we started planning to offer it again in 2013.”

As of late last month, 50 already had registered. Participants are encouraged to dress up in World War II-era clothing. With help from sponsors, dinner and snacks will be served, and a Chinese auction will be featured. Military service branch items will be available for purchase.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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