Senior Food and Thought
By Alan Rothman
“If you eat that for a hundred years you’ll live long,” was one of my dad’s favorite quips. Even better, if you attend either or both of these wonderful, ongoing senior/retiree gatherings—the informal “Ritary” at Pasquale’s, or the Retired Men of New Paltz—you will be nourished by stimulating discussions, lots of humor, long term friendships, and good food too.
My dear friend Dr. Heriberto “Airy” Dixon invited me to join the former, which meets, usually with between six and 15 seniors in attendance, most Thursdays at 12:30pm at Pasquale’s Pizzeria and Restaurant in Gardiner. Over a light lunch they share family, career, and travel stories, jokes, current events or whatever comes to mind. Birthdays and holidays are regularly celebrated with home baked desserts and candy, and sometimes even singing. They are a very diverse group of seniors representing “varied cultural, political, religious and educational backgrounds,” says founding attendee Paul Osgood. Some were born and raised here, while others came to attend college and chose to settle here.
It’s magical. Everyone enjoys each other’s company and looks forward to the weekly gathering never knowing for sure who will be there or what will be celebrated and discussed. And to what does it owe its success? Paul Osgood says, “It’s hard to explain the Thursday lunch. It arose about 25 years ago, with two guys who worked at home and didn’t want to fix lunch. So they met at what was then Rita’s Restaurant. The group has been dubbed the ‘Ritary’ ever since. It thrives on the great food and assistance from the always helpful staff at Pasquale’s Gardiner, especially manager, Chris, and regular Thursday server Amber, who both treat the group like family. Paul Osgood adds, “It’s never been organized. No membership. Just an informal gathering. I am baffled and delighted about how long it’s lasted.”
The Retired Men of New Paltz is another wonderful group of seniors and younger retired folks who meet regularly to share breakfast and fascinating discussion topics. It meets monthly at the Plaza Diner at 8:00am on most first Monday mornings of the month. The Retired Men of New Paltz is a bit more structured than the Ritary in Gardiner, Founded by O. Lincoln “Linc” Igou of the SUNY Music Department about 40 years ago, a typical gathering includes a non-sectarian grace, announcements of community events, joke telling, a guest speaker followed by questions and answers and, of course, the breakfast of your choice.
The gathering I attended featured guest speaker Michael Simpler, a retired commercial and military pilot. He spoke with great insight about “Use of Nuclear Weapons Preemptively or in Response. What is the Protocol?” The discussion was worthy of the best in any university class. All this was going on while our server flew around the tables taking orders, delivering food and distributing individual checks.
Why do these men get up so early year round to attend? Rob Greene started when he retired 20 years ago. “I enjoy the fellowship of the other retirees who are interesting and involved in the community.” Fellow attendee Ed Rogers has attended since he retired from teaching 10 years ago. He “books” the guest speakers. He has also spoken on a variety of topics including “passive solar homes, food additives, and basic electrochemistry,” just to name a few.
Phil Kissinger has been attending since 1997. “I took over about 2004 and was the host from then until 2016.” He enjoys meeting with old friends every month and keeping up to date with goings on in the Hudson Valley. Michael Hartner, one of the newest attendees, started coming about two years ago and offered to handle the notifications to newspapers and attendees.
Whether it’s the informal “Ritary” weekly luncheon in Gardiner or the somewhat more structured monthly breakfast “Retired Men of New Paltz,” you’ll walk away uplifted, informed and satisfied. As my dad might have said, “If you attend these get-togethers for a 100 years, you’ll live long.”