The residents intently listen to Hoos in the center’s dining room.
Richard Hoos said reading poetry got him through some difficult times during his childhood.
So it’s not surprising the Montague resident’s career included poetry, and now in retirement he’s sharing his love of verse with residents of Heartland Health Care Center in neighboring Whitehall.
And, the former Montague High School teacher, has been faithful in sharing poetry at Heartland, showing up the first and third Monday afternoons (3 p.m.) each month to share his favorite verses with a core group of faithful listeners.
“I’ve been coming here (Heartland) to read poetry since I retired from teaching in 1985,” Hoos said during a recent visit to the skilled nursing care and rehabilitation center.
Hoos taught English composition, literature and public speaking for many years at Montague High School.
In the last couple of years, Hoos has had some help from Martin Stidham, a former student of his who leads the residents in singing folk and other music of which they are familiar.
“I had Marty as a student in 1956,” Hoos explained. “Then I met him at the White Lake Senior Center.”
Hoos uses a home-spun technique, including humorous comments between readings. He also takes requests.
One of his favorite poems is “The Duel” (the gingham dog and calico cat) by Eugene Field, and American writer who is known for his children’s poetry and humorous essays. Hoos said he read his children’s poetry collection, “Poems of Childhood,” published in the early 20th century. One of Field’s famous children’s poems was “Wynken, Blynken and Nod.”
At the recent poetry reading, Hoos shared, “On A Snowy Night” by Robert Frost, “The Tree” by Joyce Kilmer, “A Nony Mouse” by Patti Masterman, :” A Wise Old Owl” and “The Blind Men and the Elephant.”
Interspersed with poetry is singing by Stidham, who accompanies himself on acoustic guitar. He encourages the residents to sing with him, and several join in, well remembering the words. His popular tunes included: “(Won’t You Come Home) Bill Bailey,” “God Bless America,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue - Has Anybody Seen May Gal.”
That day Hoos and Stidham had friends join them, and Art Michaelsen, a performer in the former “Montague Showboat” vaudeville fundraiser, got up and sang “Candy Man,” and “What A Wonderful World.”
Hoos brings with him a collection of his favorite poetry, many he recites from memory and some by reading. His favorite books of poetry are: Poems That Live Forever, The Family Album of Favorite Poems, The Best of Robert Service and New Friends and Old Friends by Joseph Perry.
T.J. VanDyke, recreational director at Heartland, said Hoos “is at the head of the class” among volunteers who come to the center to share with residents.
Resident Lillian Koch said she enjoys the programs by Hoos and Stidham. “I like the songs, singing and laughter.”