Bill Koruna (photographed here at Otterbein University's campus stage) has been acting since the 1950s.
April 2014 Issue
Meet residents of three Ohio retirement communities who prove that there’s no age limit to pursuing your interests.
If, as Shakespeare wrote, “all the world’s a stage,” Bill Koruna is ready to embrace every role that comes his way. For more than 50 years, Koruna, a resident of Columbus’ Friendship Village has performed in more than two dozen plays and 12 independent films.
His favorite stage roles include army captain McLean in “Tea House of the August Moon” and Virgil Blessing, the kindhearted cowboy in “Bus Stop.” On screen, Koruna has played a soldier-turned-traitor in “The Wind is Watching” and even slathered paint on his face to portray a zombie in “Bong of the Living Dead.”
“Acting is part of who I am,” Koruna says. “I can’t wait to don a character’s persona, to understand what it feels like to wear his coat and transmit that identity to my audience.”
Koruna, 73, has fond memories of the Saturday afternoons he whiled away as a youth at the movie theater in his native Skaneateles, N.Y. Roy Rogers, James Dean and Cary Grant were his heroes. Koruna often wondered what it would be like to put his own interpretations on characterizations, and he acted on those aspirations while serving as a radar tech stationed at Evreux-Fauville air base in France in the late ’50s. “Theater troupes were common on military bases in Europe,” he says. “The guys I hung around with suggested I try out.”
Koruna nailed his first audition. He was cast as professor Rupert Cadell in “The Rope,” the role James Stewart made famous in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller. “I’m fascinated by villains because they don’t see themselves as bad guys,” Koruna explains. “Many believe they’re reaching for truth or redemption or understanding. Bringing that perception to life is electrifying.”
As he prepares to depict a senior citizen in “Daisy,” an independent film about love, loss and understanding that will be shot in Indiana, Koruna reflects on this chapter in his life.
“Getting older is not for scaredy-cats,” he admits. “But it can be very satisfying. … I learn something new every day from the people around me — retired scientists, college administrators, teachers [and] business professionals. I’ve discovered the best way to age is just by listening and sharing — the exchange of ideas with others.”
Echoes in Time
Judy Cook’s favorite songs are the ones her forebears sang. They’re filled with love and heartache, freedom and fear.
For more than a decade, The Kendal at Oberlin resident has delighted in traveling the world, performing folk ballads that were popular during the Civil War.
“You can’t help but be touched by these songs,” says Cook, 65. “Everybody who had family in this country during the 1860s was involved in the fighting one way or another.”
Cook became captivated by folk music while attending Oberlin College. She and her classmates often staged sing-alongs filled with tunes made famous by John Denver, Judy Collins and Peter, Paul and Mary. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, the musician began researching the origins of her favorite music and performing her discoveries at folk festivals here and abroad.
But a find Cook happened upon in 2002 enriched her repertoire. While sorting through a box of correspondence in her mother’s North Carolina home, Cook uncovered a packet of letters written by her great-great-grandparents, Gilbert and Esther Claflin.
Gilbert, a 40-year-old farmer in Oconomowoc, Wis., had been drafted into the Union army in 1862 to serve in the Thirty-Fourth Wisconsin Infantry. It didn’t take long for Cook to get lost in the letters. Each was filled with riveting details about life in mid-19th-century America.
“My great-great-grandfather wrote wonderful, fascinating descriptions about life along the Mississippi River, about discussions he had with former slaves and with Union and Confederate soldiers who were half his age,” she says. “Esther wrote about the challenges of running the farm without her husband and offered news of what was happening in their hometown.”
Cook painstakingly transcribed the missives, and in December, the University of Wisconsin Press published the resulting book, A Quiet Corner of the War: The Civil War Letters of Gilbert and Esther Claflin
Cook and her husband, Dennis, also recorded “Tenting Tonight,” a collection of 17 Civil War-era songs. The couple sings and plays 17 selections, including “Lorena,” “Goober Peas,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel.”
As she prepares for appearances at United Kingdom folk clubs in Cornwall, Devon and Sussex, Cook muses on the poignancy of her subject matter.
“The music I choose is nonconfrontational,” she says. “I don’t sing rally songs. Instead, I showcase the human side.”
John Hughes couldn’t believe the diagnosis. He’d experienced none of the warning signs Type 1 diabetes is known for: extreme thirst, sudden change in vision, labored breathing and lethargy.
“I watched my diet and was reasonably active,” the Cincinnati resident recalls. “I had gone in for just a routine physical, so the news my doctor delivered to me came as a complete surprise.”
The Proctor & Gamble computer technologist knew it was time to step up his exercise routine and decided to give bicycling a whirl. Forty-six years later, what began as a necessity has morphed into a full-blown fitness regimen.
“When I’m on a bike, I don’t think about any of my problems,” he says. “And best of all, you see the scenery in minute detail.”
During the summer, Hughes, 86, logs an average of 100 miles a week on the Raleigh Alyeska touring bike his daughter gave him 25 years ago. In inclement weather, he pedals a stationary bike at his home in Maple Knoll Village. He’s become a familiar sight tooling along the pathways dotting his continuing-care retirement community. But his wanderlust spans the globe.
In 2012, Hughes rode 46 miles in California’s Death Valley for a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraiser. Last year, he participated in a 100-mile trip through Natchez Trace Parkway, stopping along the way to help build Habitat for Humanity homes in Tennessee.
When he’s home, the octogenarian delivers Meals on Wheels (by car, of course) to Cincinnati residents and serves as a mentor to others with diabetes. “My first piece of advice: Don’t deny diabetes,” Hughes says. “So many people do in the sense that they say, ‘Well, I can eat anything I want today because it won’t affect me tomorrow.’ If you do that every day, you’ll be in trouble in a year or two.”
Arthritis and a new pacemaker have not slowed the cyclist down. Hughes is planning to visit Switzerland this year.
“I’m proof that you’re never too old to exercise,” he says. “Of course, I get a little upset with myself sometimes because I don’t have the physical capabilities I used to have. But that’s not going to stop me.”