I’d say a 94th birthday is tux-worthy – wouldn’t you? Ron Fons not only sported a tuxedo, unhealthy but he also flew 7,000 miles to celebrate with his mother at her favorite spot in Milwaukee, the Pfister Hotel. It’s an annual tradition, and the only time he makes it back home to Milwaukee.
Sylvia nibbles on a crab cake, smiles and has a little twinkle in her eye. She is 94 years young today. Her diminutive presence is far from the vivacious Vaudeville celebrity she once was. Her specialty was tap dance, but she also played the clarinet, piano and sax. I ask her a few questions about her days as a performer and she took me all the way back to the beginning as a 10-year-old in Rhode Island.
“There were three of us, close in age, so my mother gave us tap dancing lessons. They piled us in a car and took us all over the New England states and we performed on stage and on the radio, and then in nightclubs when we got older,” recalled Sylvia.
She even sang me the first song she ever performed on stage. Can you believe she remembered all the words? Listen here:
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“It’s all in the genes, so I gave my kids music lessons,” she said.
While his brother became a concert pianist, Ron elaborated on how he dodged his musical destiny. It involves a high school band teacher with mad-scientist messy hair who threw sheet music at him in a fit of rage. That was pretty much the turning point. He works in information technology in Hong Kong, where he’s lived for the past 26 years.
Every time Ron comes in to town, he stays at the Pfister. And Sylvia started visiting to the Pfister with a friend many years ago (she can’t recall exactly how many) after her husband passed away. She loves the ambiance and the people.
“Most people don’t believe me when I tell them how old I am. My heart doctor told me I was going to live until I was 100 and you know, he was the second doctor that told me that!” she declares.
What’s her secret to staying young? “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink and I was always very active,” Sylvia brags. She credits tap dance and bowling for keeping her fit.
Once a performer, always a performer – after all, it is in the genes.