Every week, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected].
At 91 years young, Mansfield Rogers still gets a thrill when he takes the stage to sing. Conquering the jitters, well, that never really goes away.
Singing has always been his thing, and it always will be. Mansfield found his voice when he was a small boy, probably before he was six years old. He remembers gathering around the fire every Sunday to sing with his family while his mother played the piano. He also recalls taking the stage for a Christmas concert and being totally nervous. Those long-ago memories still surface every now and then and they are ones he will cherish forever. They were just the beginning of a lifetime of memories built by doing what he loves to do.
“It’s a hobby of mine in so many ways,” he says. “It’s therapeutic… something I find very relaxing. Over the years, I’ve sang at any chance I could with any group I could. For me, it’s just a lot of fun. I don’t think you ever get over the stage fright. And maybe that’s from being brought up in a time when you were to be seen and not heard.”
He’s the sweetest elderly man, with blue eyes that tell a story of someone who’s seen it all and done so many wonderful things in his nine decades on this planet. He served in World War II, making him one of Huntsville’s oldest living veterans. He’s never missed a Remembrance Day service at the Legion either. It means a lot for him to be able to pay his respect. He considers himself lucky that he was able to make it home.
He worked for the Ministry of Transportation for 36 years and helped build major highways in Muskoka as well as across northern Ontario. He was also involved with the local Air Cadets program starting in the early 1980s and sat on the sponsoring committee helping to raise funds for the Cadets for 23 years.
Mansfield doesn’t look like a guy who’s over 90. He gets around just fine on his own, although sometimes he relies on a walker or his handmade cane for balance. He’s sharp as a tack and witty, too. He’s maintains good health and for that he is grateful. He still drives and he’d “like to keep it that way” for as long as he can. He’s been married to Betty Lou, a woman who he has shared all the joy in the world with, for the past 65 years. She’s the apple of his eye and has been since he first laid eyes on her.
Mansfield (better known as Mans to his friends) is a longtime member of the Muskoka Music Men, the local chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society. In fact, he’s the longest-standing and oldest member and even helped form the group back in 1989. He’s been actively involved since its inception, singing merrily and happily once a week (and sometimes more) for the last 28 years. He was instrumental in recruiting some of the first members and over the years he has watched many new faces come and go.
I just love the harmony part. That’s my favourite part of singing. We’re a good group. I think we all really enjoy the social aspect of it. There’s been a big turnover with not having enough members… and I think that’s because it’s hard to get men to sing. It’s alright for women, but for some reason or another singing is not considered a man thing to do. To me, there’s nothing like singing. It’s really too bad we can’t get more men to come out and sing with us.
Being part of the Muskoka Music Men for almost 30 years means Mansfield is always out and about in the community. The group meets on Tuesday evenings for practice, but he’s also part of a quartet that gets together on Wednesdays. Getting out and singing with his friends keeps him busy. (It might even be the secret to what’s keeping him young.) He’s performed at hundreds of events – weddings, birthdays, private social functions and other special occasions. Every year he looks forward to delivering ‘Singing Valentines’, a definite way to get anyone to blush when a quartet of gentlemen show up at their house or place of employment to sing a romantic tune. He’s hoping that this year, even with member numbers being down, the tradition continues.
He was a member of Trinity United Church’s choir for over 40 years and his love for music and singing had him performing in nearly every single musical the Rotary Club of Huntsville put on back in the 80s and 90s.
“The shows were very popular because back then people enjoyed that sort of thing. I always liked the singing part, of course, and just being on stage. We were always singing new songs and it was a real gathering for all of us. The general practicing was always fun as well.”
For Mansfield, music feeds the soul. And being able to sing ignited a life-long passion of his that he will never give up.
“It’s my last remaining hobby. At my age there’s not much left.”
The Muskoka Music Men are always on the lookout for new members. Anyone who is interested in joining the group can search Muskoka Music Men on Facebook or call Ken Koehler 705-766-9936 or email Ken at [email protected]
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