Walk into the Village Café in Chapin almost any Wednesday morning and you will find a group of seven women known to many as the Golden Girls. This enthusiastic group of big-hearted women has been meeting at the café since it opened in 2015. The ladies are all multitalented, help others, support each other and have so much fun together. Their laughter is contagious and their love for each other is unmistakable.
This collection of women includes Anita Moody, Sandy Prunty, Carolyn Thoroman, Susan LaKamp, Jan Smith, Joyce Crews and Karen Ehlert (who was not able to make it the morning I visited).
Some have been friends for more than 50 years. They met via an assortment of commonalities or shared aspects of life, including: husbands who farm, being neighbors and attending the same meetings; or, in the case of Joyce, Anita and Sandy, they all went to Jacksonville High School, but were not in the same class. Anita said she was lucky because the group adopted her even though she had moved away for 45 years. But, when she moved back, Sandy invited her to come join them at one the houses when they got together.
Once a month for years they met at a one of their homes, but they wanted to meet more. When the Village Café opened, they all wanted to support the local business and it was a great fit. They can’t all make it every week, but almost any Wednesday as many as can be there will get together.
Friendship was the impetus for their gatherings. From the beginning, the group all pledged “no gossip,” and the women all chimed in, “It isn’t for that. It is positive. Oh, we love to gab and our husbands really can’t believe we don’t have gossip to share. But we only talk about someone in context of health and well-being and how we can help.” Anita says, “It’s laughter therapy every Wednesday.” “And we always start each meeting with a prayer,” said Susan.
I can attest to their positivity. During a breakfast I shared with them, they loved to praise one another’s talents. Some of what I learned was that Sandy has a background in public relations and she is the organizer of the programs, social coordinator and planner for the group trips. One member commented that Sandy has another real talent and the rest enthusiastically chimed in that she is amazing at floral arrangements. “She can even take old arrangements and make them look amazing,” said Carolyn, whose birthday the group had all celebrated the day before at Josephine’s Tea Room in Godfrey.
Joyce was a banker for 44 years. The group said, “she was in several robberies.” Joyce explained that she had indeed been in two bank robberies at the bank in Concord during her career. Jan is a retired nurse and nurse instructor. Susan is a retired nurse. Carolyn did hair and was in child care. She had five children and now travels to see her 12 grandchildren in their sports events as much as she can. Anita is a teacher by trade, but the whole group said she was so talented at many things. She is a master gardener, raises peacocks (harvesting their feathers), does canning and makes the most beautiful quilts. Anita’s sea turtle quilt won the viewer’s choice award at the recent River Country Quilt Show at Jacksonville High School.
As much fun as this group has together, they are also a support group for one another and other friends through illnesses and more. One of their friends had a massive stroke last year and the group wanted to do something special for her. Anita designed the quilt and the women worked on the friendship lap quilt for their friend, Glenna. She passed away at Christmas.
When they began meeting weekly, they also decided they want to do something more than just gather. And with so many talents, they have a lot to offer. Susan said one idea started when she was helping at her grandchildren’s Bible school. Director Vanessa Tyus of New Directions Heating and Cooling Center had spoken to the children, so Sue brought the idea of helping New Directions back to the group and for the past five years they have taken food to New Directions every third Thursday of the month.
In addition, they volunteer at the Salvation Army Store and make decorations for doors at nursing homes. They said they have had some failures. They all laughed and Anita explained, “we made draped hyper tufa pots (cement pots or cement fabric pots with a rustic, textured look from a mixture peat moss, perlite and Portland cement) and they didn’t stay together. But we plan to try again some time.”
On the August morning I met with them, Sandy was busy planning their next trip, to Hermann, Missouri, which is hard with seven busy schedules to accommodate. She was coordinating everyone’s schedules, checking on possible reservations and getting the group in a huddle where they giggled as they all squeezed an alcove call and all ask questions over the phone’s speaker.
“We try to take a trip at least once a year,” said Anita. “But we also go on a lot of Jacksonville Savings Bank senior bus trips, too.” They listed many other trips they’d taken including Ersa, Illinois, to a caboose made into a lodge; hunting lodges in Pike County they say are very elegant; and last year’s trip to the Ozarks over which they chuckled. Split into two groups, they planned themed cocktail parties, which turned out to be vastly different. One was a classy “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” theme, to which they wore black dresses and pearls. The second was a funny Mexican theme where they wore sombreros, played instruments and sang songs. Both they agreed were equally fun.
There can be no value placed on friendship, but the Golden Girls are definitely worth their weight in gold and more! The group is therapeutic, loving, kind and positive. A group that keeps them forever young. Everyone needs a little laughter in his or her life.