Elders honored in Monday program

Nathan Steele

Custer fourth grade students brought together many in the community to honor two Custer elders: Diane Dennis and Jim Kelley, both long-time Custer residents, with the Elder’s Wisdom, Children’s Song Program. The program brings elders from the Custer and Hermosa communities to elementary classrooms to share their life stories with the students. Then, with the help of area songwriters, the students create a narrative of the elder’s life and compose an original song to be performed in a concert honoring the elders.
Dennis was honored with the song, “Sweetness in Life,” written by Mrs. Haug’s class with assistance from songwriter Marianne Fridell.
The students also shared a narrative of Dennis’ life, which they wrote in addition to the song after interviewing Dennis. In a sweet moment, Dennis’ granddaughter, Dilann Dennis, a student in Haug’s class, thanked her grandmother for being “an inspiration to our community.”
The chorus of their song condensed Dennis’ advice and wisdom into a catchy verse: “Believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone bully you. Be as brave as Buzz [Lightyear] and as kind as Pee Wee (Dennis’ husband), as strong as a tractor and as sweet as a hummingbird.”
The song ended with the lines “Hummingbirds will find the nectar. In the flowers, they will be there finding the sweetness in life, finding the sweetness in life.”
Kelley, a retired pharmacist was honored with the song, “Have I Got the Prescription for You,” written by Mrs. Poper’s class with assistance from songwriter Hank Fridell.
The chorus of this song also reinforced some of Kelley’s earned wisdom: “Stay healthy! Love your parents, love your family, your friends. Stay away from bad drugs, they’ll hurt you in the end. Don’t be a bully. Don’t have mean things to say. Goodness and mercy shall follow you, all of your days.”
Many were amused as the students acted out phone calls to Kelley Drug through the song, complete with rotary phone sound effects.
The song ended with this make believe phone call: “Hello, Kelley Drug.”
“Thank you for sharing your life with us Jim Kelley! You are Custer’s biggest Wildcat fan!”
Both songs were met with standing ovations from both honorees, and a reception hosted by students’ parents was held following the program.

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