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Van Brunt to hand over spatula

I wonder how many volunteer hours Tom has racked up doing odd jobs around the Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center. Considering he began his career in the early 1990s, it would be quite a few.

Tom said it all started when his friend Bob Carr invited him to help with some building projects at the new Senior Center. Tom valued Bob's friendship, so he decided he should give him a hand. Little did he know that he would be digging an elevator shaft, building a stairway, putting up partitions and renovating a kitchen. And that was just for starters. He would continue this type of maintenance work for years to come. He didn't know what he was getting into, but he was interested in the project and willing to learn.

"I built my own house, so I had some basic know-how," Tom said.

It turns out Tom was happy to be a part of fixing the place up so seniors would have a nice place to meet. Because Tom was in on the ground floor and then continued to be "Mr. Fix It" or the next 15 years, he got to know the building pretty well.

"I got to feeling like it was my building." He said.

Needless to say, if any building problems came, up the solution was simple - just call Tom Van Brunt.

Building maintenance wasn't Tom's only claim to fame. For the last 10 years, he has also headed up the monthly pancake breakfast.

According to Tom, there came a time when there was no one to mix pancakes.

"I couldn't believe there was absolutely no one who would step up to mix pancakes," he said. "I can do that."

Not only has he been mixing ever since, but he also has done all the other tasks that go with Pancake Day including shopping for groceries.

So, I asked Tom if all this volunteering ever got to him. Tom said he doesn't have the energy and enthusiasm for doing big projects around the Senior Center anymore, and as for the pancakes, he said "Getting the show on the road at 6 a.m. and then being on my feet for six hours is getting to be too much. I get too tired and then can't do a good job."

So he decided to hang it up by the time his 86th birthday rolls around May 3.

"I inherited the pancake success," he said. "They were making great pancakes when I came on board. I just continued to follow the rules: Don't beat 'em too much, don't leave 'em too long on the first side and measure accurately. And step out of the kitchen once in a while and ask the diners what they think. Thank them for their good or bad comments. And one more thing, try to have a good time and not make Pancake Day just a lot of work."

The Senior Center is well known for serving great pancakes, and Tom said he hopes that good reputation will continue long after he has handed over the spatula.

He said he can be sure that he is leaving Pancake Saturday in good hands because he has worked side-by-side with everyone in the pancake crew.

Tom said he has thoroughly enjoyed the challenges he has encountered at the Senior Center and is glad to have had a place to contribute his time and talents. He said he feels he actually "owes the Senior Center."

He explained that when his wife died leaving him pretty sad and lonely, he was lucky he had so many friends at the Senior Center.

"They were like family to me," he said. "I could get a square meal and enjoy eating with friends."

So althoughTom said he doesn't think he deserves a lot of credit for all his good deeds, we do. So from all of us at the Senior Center thanks a million for all your years of volunteering and for being an extraordinary true friend of the Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center. And by way, if you happen to see Tom Van Brunt, wish him a Happy Birthday.

We will serve pancakes from 4:30-7 p.m. April 30. We will also have a silent auction during that time so you can shop and eat and also play the Juke Box. The cost is $5 for adults and $2.50 for children 9 and younger. This includes all you can eat pancakes, three sausages, orange juice and milk or coffee.

The LSS Nutrition Site will be serving a dinner from 4:30-6:30 p.m April 17. A hearty helping of meatballs, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, coleslaw, ice cream and beverage will be served for $8 for adults and $3 for children 12 and younger. Proceeds will be used to buy trays for the meals on wheels programs.

Tickets for our Spring Style Show - "Nostalgia - Life in the Past Lane" - go on sale Wednesday and can be purchased at the Senior Center for $6.

Speaking of the Juke Box - If you have any of those "hard to find" 45 rpm records and feel you can part with them, please call Diane at 751-8836.

Gift wrap made simple - Thanks to North Country Health Services we no longer need to save boxes for our Christmas Gift Wrap. The Hospital Gift Shop will collect all sizes and shapes of boxes and will store them for us until Christmas.

Ann Daley is a Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center Board member.