Still Dancing After All These Years
By Denise Milanese Photography by Christian Lee
Mary Anna Hanke
Still Dancing After All These Years
Mary Anna Hanke is a snow-capped, twinkle-eyed, octogenarian dynamo. She golfs two to three times a week, typically completing her usual nine holes in less than two hours. Respectable indeed! She has embraced a service oriented way of life since her youth and continues that commitment now with her support of the Adaptive Golf Experience program. Individuals with challenges due to spinal chord injuries, stroke, TBI, or amputation are given the opportunity to learn the sport with the appropriate adaptations from a golf professional and physical therapist. They experience the joy and satisfaction of bringing outdoor recreational activity back into their lives. The clinics are held the third Saturday of every month from 9 to 11 a.m., are free and open to civilians, veterans, and active military at The Legends Golf Course at Parris Island. The availability of high-tech adaptive devices, such as Ottobech Paragolfer, an Eagle Standup and a Solo-Rider, allow even those without the ability to stand to enjoy the sport. The course maintains the adaptive equipment for use by the para-golfers whenever they choose to play a round. The organization has full support from Beaufort Memorial Hospital Orthopedic and Rehabilitative Services departments, as well as the Marine Corps Community Services organization. Mary Anna regularly plays at The Legends Course with golfers she has met at the clinics. She smiles broadly, “I have one buddy who hits it farther with one arm than I can with two! I am always so impressed by the participants’ abilities and so happy to be a part of helping them find their way to enhancing and expanding those abilities.”
Mary Anna has been dancing and performing since she and her older brothers formed a trio that appeared at war bond rallies in and around New York City, encouraging citizens to support the war effort and ‘Buy Bonds’. She treasures a picture of her as a proud six-year-old, dressed in a white drum majorette costume, extravagantly adorned with ribbons and braids, topped with a dramatic helmet cap topping her brown curls. She is flanked by her brothers holding American flags, dressed in doughboy style uniforms, completing the military look. They danced their way into the hearts and wallets of the patriotic New York City crowds.
Mary Anna was an enterprising child, who learned early the value of her talent for entertainment. The clever proprietor of the local soda fountain gave her a free egg cream if she would dance for a few minutes in the store, attracting many additional customers, who stayed to enjoy a treat themselves. She grew into a beautiful young woman with the heart of a patriot and a love of dance. She continued her support of the military by performing Anne Miller style dance performances with her brother at USO shows on bases and in military hospitals across the country until she was 18.
For a time Mary Anna’s attention turned to raising sons in Long Island and working as an executive at the Minox Camera Company, producing the small, easily concealed, spy cameras of the day.
Throughout her eventful adventurous life Mary Anna has danced. When she retired to the Lowcountry, she continued the her love of dance by joining the Beaufort-ettes, a tap dance troupe comprised of women, who entertain in hospitals and nursing homes in the area.
Mary Anna attributes her longevity and vigor to healthy eating, faith and an hour of exercise every day. As the adage posted on her refrigerator intones, “What fits your busy schedule better … one hour of exercise a day or being dead 24 hours a day?” You can find her golfing, walking two to three miles with her schnoodle, Lucy, or tap dancing on her portable tap dance practice floor that she puts down in her office. “Tapping is great for your flexibility and keeping up your bone density,” she explained. Showing no signs of slowing down, Mary Anna’s energy is infectious. She’ll likely be tapping for decades to come.
Right Place/Right Time: She attended the V-J Day celebration in Times Square, where the iconic photo of a sailor kissing a nurse was snapped.
Hometown: She was born in 1936 in NYC to Czechoslovakian immigrant parents.
Motherly Instincts: “Adopted” NY Islanders’ Slovakian NHL star Ziggy Palffy, who was homesick for Eastern European home cooking.
Pure Moxie: She has a cartoon in her office of an egret with a frog in its mouth. The frog’s hands are sticking out, wrapping around the egret’s throat. It’s caption, “Don’t Ever Give Up”
Proud Mom: Her son is an award winning, world-class number theorist.