Dancers perform hula dances as The Carl Gipson Senior Center in Everett re-opens with an Aloha Party on Monday. The center had been closed for remodeling since early July. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Senior Center reopens with a taste of the islands

EVERETT — People who walked in the Carl Gipson Senior Center on Monday were greeted with Hawaiian-style decorations and a loud “aloha” from the staff.

The festive occasion was because the senior center reopened on time after a two-month closure.

Hawaiian shirts were encouraged, lunch was a pineapple and ginger-glazed chicken dish, and every guest received a lei.

“We’ve gone through 100 leis so far today,” said Debra Loughrey-Johnson, the senior center’s director. It was only 10:30 a.m.

The senior center closed July 5 so the restrooms could be remodeled, a $270,000 project. Many activities were displaced during the hiatus, and others were simply canceled.

The theme for the reopening party was Hawaiian because… well, because director Loughrey-Johnson loves Hawaii, and once even had a Hawaiian-themed party for her birthday.

Monday happened to be her birthday. “I’m just pretending all these people are here for my party,” she said.

Near the lobby, former Everett Councilman Carl Gipson, for whom the building is named, greeted arrivals with hugs before he went and took his seat in the multipurpose room for lunch and the performance.

On the stage, five ladies in hula skirts, the oldest in her mid-90s, were setting up.

Connie Young, the lead hula dancer, introduced the first song.

“We’re going to start out with ‘Island of Love.’ Now, this is Elvis, so I don’t want to see any swooning,” she said.

Others were there for the activities they’d missed over the summer.

In the table tennis room, Howard Grossman, the center’s resident ping pong coach, provided advice to Yan Wong, who was in an intense fast-moving game against David Kim.

“You’re doing that swing too far. Stop it halfway,” Grossman said after Wong put a ball over the far end of the table. He demonstrated with his hand to show how to swing.

Wong, a native of Guangzhou, China, said she’d been playing table tennis since she was five, and played on school teams and for a city club there. She’d only been coming to the senior center for a year and this was the first time she’d played Kim, who hailed from South Korea.

He proved to be a match for her.

“When he cuts it he puts spin, so you need to lift it!” Grossman coached her.

“Yeah yeah,” she said between serves.

The activity was more low-key and concentrated in the billiards room, where Mike Lanphere and Gary Boller were breezing through a game of eight-ball.

“When I first found the place I was delighted to find a clean-and-sober place to come play pool,” Lanphere said, while Boller sunk his first six solids in a row before missing a shot.

“When it closed I realized how much I missed the place,” he said.

Then Lanphere went on to pocket six stripes before scratching.

“Oh! He choked!” Boller called out. Less than a minute later, Boller had sunk his last ball and neatly put the eight into a corner pocket.

Then he racked up the balls and they started again.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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