• Fountains resident wondered: Why now? Why not?

  • Ann Clark is modest in describing the list of activities she’d like to accomplish in the remainder of her lifetime.

    With a smile, she says she won’t do most of them, but she wrote them down anyway.

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  • Ann Clark is modest in describing the list of activities she’d like to accomplish in the remainder of her lifetime.
    With a smile, she says she won’t do most of them, but she wrote them down anyway.
    That bucket list got slightly smaller two weeks ago as Clark, 82, sat down, picked up a bow and struck her first note on a stringed instrument.
    “Take cello lessons” now has a check mark next to it.
    It all started with a class at The Fountains at Greenbriar in Independence, where Clark has lived for nearly three years.
    Bucket lists are growing in popularity, with entire websites dedicated to ideas for 10,000 ideas of things to accomplish before dying. The Fountains’ class, now known as “Thrive Club,” allows residents to write down goals they’d like to achieve in their lifetime – and age makes no difference in the activity.
    Other items on Clark’s bucket list included driving the Alaska-Canadian Highway, attending a Super Bowl game and climbing Machu Picchu.
    Clark says she isn’t physically able to complete the Machu Picchu-related dream, but her granddaughter recently made the climb, so Clark says she’s been able to see the experience through her granddaughter’s eyes.
    “I’m not going to do any of those things, but you know, these are just dreams,” Clark says, smiling. “And so, playing the cello was one of them. I never dreamed they would make it possible for me to do that.”
    Staff members at The Fountains review the lists and try to make several residents’ dreams come true at once, such as last year when a handful of seniors took a hot air balloon ride across the Kansas City area.
    “Ann’s was a tricky list,” says Erin Burke, sales director at The Fountains. “We racked our brains a little bit, and I finally found someone to donate the cello for the lessons, and we got the teacher to arrange it in her schedule after the holidays. It took a little time, but we got it worked out.”
    While Clark wasn’t necessarily surprised when The Fountains staff made the cello lessons possible – they’d kept her in the loop throughout the process – she says she did get cold feet before the lessons started.
    “I’ll never play the cello well, but I know how it works now,” Clark says. “That means an awful lot.
    “It’s a beautiful instrument. I love the tones, and I never hear enough of it.”
    She started lessons two weeks ago with Melissa Hile, an Independence resident and cellist with the Lee’s Summit Symphony. Clark described herself as “in the very beginning, in a pre-elementary stage.”
    Hile, who still takes cello lessons herself at UMKC, also teaches double bass, and most of her students are ages 10 through high school. She described Clark as enthusiastic and excited about her new musical endeavor, adding that age isn’t an obstacle in learning a new instrument.
    Page 2 of 2 - “A lot of times people think they are too old to take up an instrument,” Hile says, “and I just say, ‘No, you’re not! Go for it.’”
    Clark downplays her cello-playing abilities, saying she knows she won’t go far. Again, Hile shrugs off these sentiments.
    “For her enjoying it, that’s all the reason for doing it,” Hile says. “If a person enjoys playing music, that’s the biggest gift.”
    Even prior to taking cello lessons, music played a significant part in Clark’s life. Her son Philip is the associate principal trumpet in the Kansas City Symphony, and Philip’s wife, Deborah, is the symphony’s principal harpist.
    As an adolescent, Clark took piano lessons for five years. While she didn’t continue playing the instrument in adulthood, Clark says the technical aspects, such as time signatures and note names, are slowly coming back to her as she’s learning the cello.
    So, why take up the cello now?
    “Why not?” Clark replies.
    Twice widowed, Clark lives at The Fountains with her two tuxedo cats, Buttons and Obama. She still speaks with a Southern drawl, although she’s lived in Missouri for more than a decade.
    She tries to complete a crossword puzzle every morning. Clark also enjoys knitting caps for various charities while watching the History Channel or reruns of "MASH."
    “I think it’s perfect that you make it possible for old ladies to start something new,” Clark says to Burke. “We still have things to do – we’re not dead yet. Mentally, I’m not where I was 10 years ago, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel.”

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