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November 29, 2013

In tune with the times

Lawrence resident, 91, keeps the hits coming as member of Men of St. Patrick singing troupe

LAWRENCE — With his arms spread open, Joe Blanchette belted out a tune. He was wearing a big grin, tapping his toes, clapping and swaying to the beat of the music.

It is music that brings back memories of his younger days.

Blanchette, 91, performs music from the 1920s and 1940s with the Men of St. Patrick at Mary Immaculate Nursing and Restorative Center in Lawrence, and the Sutton Hill and Prescott House nursing homes in North Andover.

“It brings back a lot of memories,” Blanchette said recently. “I remember growing up we had house parties and sat around the piano and sang all night.”

He also recalls dancing at the Crystal Ballroom in Andover and listening to big band remote shows on the radio from Meadowbrook, N.Y.

Although those days are gone, Blanchette keeps the tradition alive by performing big band music and minstrel shows which include comic skits and music. They perform once or twice a year. Blanchette also volunteers at Sutton Hill Nursing Home three days a week, visiting residents and playing the card game 45’s.

“I like the melody of Dixie music and ballads. People my age appreciate the music because they have heard it before,” said Blanchette, who lives with family in Lawrence.

In addition to Blanchette, the group is made up of his son, Bill Blanchette, Beverly Ouellette, Joe Couture, Tim Doherty, Jim Griffin, Danny Petty, Sean Reardon and pianist Brian Durkin, all of Lawrence, and Jim Morin of Atkinson, N.H. Other than Griffin, who is 82, other members are half Blanchette’s age.

“He’s just amazing,” Couture said. “He’s full of energy and still going strong.”

His son, Bill Blanchette, 55, agrees.

“He’s an inspiration to us all,” the younger Blanchette said. “The way he deals with life; he never stops, never complains, doesn’t talk about his aches and pains and is always moving forward. I’m very lucky to have him for so long.”

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