The Silver Foxes — from left, Ralph Paonessa, Joe Wanchik, Ron Hinz and Don Clark — play music at Blossom Heath Park on Thursday afternoons.

The Silver Foxes — from left, Ralph Paonessa, Joe Wanchik, Ron Hinz and Don Clark — play music at Blossom Heath Park on Thursday afternoons.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Playing for the love of the music

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 13, 2021

 Marnee Westberg, of St. Clair Shores, enjoys the music.

Marnee Westberg, of St. Clair Shores, enjoys the music.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Walking by the Blossom Heath Beach House on a Thursday afternoon, visitors could be forgiven for thinking they’ve taken a step back in time.

Sounds of the past fill the air as the Silver Foxes play for fans. Joking that they’re too old to dance themselves, the members of the band play music that makes it difficult for those listening to keep their own feet still.

“I am aware of Pandora and some of those things, but live music, there’s nothing that beats that,” said Mary Lambert, who came with her friend, Marnee Westberg, to watch the band play July 29.

The half-dozen members of the band used to play at ShorePointe senior living center, but COVID-19 restrictions led to a prohibition on outside visitors to the facility, so the band had to find a new gig.

“We played there for over a year, and then the virus came and that was the end of that,” said Joe Wanchik, of Harper Woods, on keyboard.

The Blossom Heath Beach House proved to be the perfect setting.

“If the weather is bad, we play in one of the buildings,” he said.

Wanchik came to the piano later in life. He said he’s never been formally trained but can play 250 songs — all in the key of C.

“We don’t have music,” said Ralph Paonessa, of St. Clair Shores, on violin. “We play all by heart, all the standards.”

The group has been together for more than a decade, he said, to have something to do.

“We just felt that it’s better doing something than doing nothing,” Wanchik agreed. “It’s kind of nice that the four or five of us get together and haven’t forgotten. People like to hear a little music once in a while.”

Kerry Hocker, of St. Clair Shores, happened upon the group playing in July.

“They’re the best-kept secret,” she said. “They were just delightful.”

She said she and a friend found it heartwarming that the group, which also includes singer Don Clark, Ron Hinz on electric guitar, and Norma Philp, enjoyed the musical fellowship every week.

It’s the love of music that keeps them going, Paonessa said.

“We’ve been playing so long, we know all the songs. We don’t play for money, we’re all old guys on pensions,” he said. “We just play for fun.”

The Silver Foxes play at Blossom Heath from noon to 1 p.m. each Thursday. Recent visitors say they enjoy hearing the oldies and singing along. Westberg joked that if they were playing anything from this century, she wouldn’t know a word, but since the Silver Foxes play tunes that were popular in their youth — and even before — she knows every one.

The group welcomes visitors to come and enjoy the music, or to join the band. Just show up before noon on Thursdays at Blossom Heath Park, 24800 Jefferson Ave.

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