As a group of active retirees opened their first gathering of the year, there wasn't a rocking chair in sight.

On the contrary, these folks rock. To a piano accompaniment, they rang in 2016 a few days late with "Auld Lang Syne," the Scottish standard for New Year's Eve that translates as "Times Gone By."

The singers weren't exactly rockin' 'round the clock, nor was the clock striking 12. It was 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, the very civilized meeting time of the Golden K Kiwanis Club.

There are lots of Kiwanis clubs, all dedicated to the Golden Rule, good citizenship and serving youth, but Golden K is different. It's for members age 62 and up.

And this was a special day, featuring wisdom from a panel of wise men — 90 and up.

"Expect the unexpected," offered Al Thornton, 95, whose strong voice broke into song with, "All I Want is Your Love, Darlin'."

As the applause died, he smiled and quipped: "Did you expect that?"

The applause gave way to laughter, and the year — yet another year for these old-timers — was off to a roaring start.

Paul Filipi, 97, disclosed his secrets to a fulfilling life and an enjoyable retirement: Selflessness, gratitude, reading and study, and goal-setting.

An example of his goals: "Live to 110!" More laughter. Isn't it funny — though not necessarily humorous — that life is full of irony? As Paul noted, for example: The more you give, the more you have.

As good Kiwanians, the six panelists — all either turning 90 this year or already past the milestone — talked about continuing to volunteer for good causes.

They especially noted how enjoyable it is to help the young, such as reading to kids at Conestoga Elementary School in north Omaha.

Said Don Egr, who turns 91 next month: "That's the most satisfying thing."

You don't survive this long without a sense of humor, and the fellas displayed a lot of that. Some volunteer as ambassadors at an Eppley Airfield information desk, providing information about Omaha.

James Vose, who turns 90 in August and whose daughter, Dr. Julie Vose, is a widely known oncologist for Nebraska Medicine, said arriving passengers often need information urgently.

He swung his arm out from the elbow and crisply pointed, mimicking his response when asked directions to a restroom: "That way!"

Don McWhirter, 90, said volunteering at "All Play" days for youth baseball at Seymour Smith Park has brought tears to his eyes, especially seeing how grateful some parents are.

He got a big laugh in telling about a child who looked up at him curiously and innocently asked, "Mister Don, why aren't you dead?"

The nonagenarians who dispensed wisdom and humor at Golden K Kiwanis aren't slowing down, at least not much. They are living full lives, having experienced military service, occupations, travel and families. They have outlived actuarial tables, and in some cases beloved spouses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a male born in 2012 had a life expectancy of 76.4 years, and a female, 81.2. A 65-year-old male that year could expect to live to 83, and a female, to 85.

Talk about the unexpected. These Golden K fellows are enjoying their golden years.

Oh, and not just fellas. Nancy Haack, much younger, is the club president. Kiwanis Clubs celebrated their 100th anniversary last year, and until 1987 they — like Rotary and other clubs — were all-male.

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court called that unconstitutional.

"Adding women to Kiwanis," McWhirter said, "brought life and vigor into the organization."

The Omaha Golden K Kiwanis, which meets at Countryside Community Church, 8787 Pacific St., was formed in 1981, with 24 members. By 1993, membership reached 180. Today, it stands at 85.

That's been the story of lots of organizations: declining membership. But those who remain in Golden K are staying active, perhaps because they always have lived active lives.

They spoke at the invitation of club member Bob Kully, a lad of 79.

Bill Gordon, who turns 90 this year, told members about music as the wonderment of his life. He played drums and met famous musicians such as Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

Morey Jensen, 90 next month, and a member of the post-World War II occupation forces in Japan, is proud to have been the Golden K's oldest president — at 85.

Take it from a guy who's lived a long time: Time waits for no one, so it's best to stay active.

Sometimes it's like a dragster on a racing strip. As Morey titled his talk: "0 to 90, a very fast ride."

Contact the writer: 402-444-1132, michael.kelly@owh.com

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