Forever Young<br><i>Former chorus girl volunteers at Mingus school bookstore </i>

VVN/Philip Wright

Louise (Lovey) Warner took a break recently while volun-teering in the bookstore at Mingus Union High School. The 87-year-old spends hours each day helping out and making hundreds of photocopies.

Lovey's own education really began in 1934 after she graduated from high school at the age of 16. Her first job was also her first love: dancing for a traveling stock company. As a dancer, Lovey had to learn a new show every week and perform every night.

"At night, after the show, you'd rehearse for the next week's show," Lovey said. It was her start and it was a grind. But she loved the entertainment business and she misses it. "It gets in your blood."

During those early years as a dancer, Lovey found herself traveling from town to town, away from family and working long hours. She spent her 18th birthday in a restaurant in Joliet, Ill., because the bus broke down. And she found herself stranded far from home when the advance man for her traveling group absconded with the company's money. She received no pay and had only $2 in her pocket.

"That was my education," Lovey said. "I learned the good and the bad. But I loved it."

After that experience, her mother thought for sure that Lovey was through with show business. But three weeks later, she was rehearsing in New York with another chorus line.

Her new troupe traveled throughout the South and eventually made its way to Chicago before breaking up. Only the main act stayed together, and Lovey was one of the lucky ones. "That's when I became part of an act," she said.

The "act" was a set of musical stairs. The steps and risers played notes, and the dancers slowly made their way toward a platform with bells at the stop of the stairs. Once there, the stairs collapsed and the girls slid down -- playing the scale as they went.

In May of 1936 Lovey left show business.

In December of that year, she was hired by a New York department store to work during the Christmas rush. By 1941, Lovey had become a supervisor in that store's credit department, and she was part of the first worker strike ever by retail employees.

"We were asking for 5 cents an hour more," she said. "I walked the picket line because my parents needed the money."

It was in 1943 that Lovey went on a blind date that she really dreaded. She met Norman, who left two months later for World War II with the Army Air Corps. Lovey and Norman married Sept. 2, 1945, on VJ day.

The couple had three children and five grandchildren.

Lovey did secretarial work while Norman owned and managed two driving schools. Eventually, he sold his business and went to work as a salesman for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1969 Lovey and Norman moved to Phoenix so he could open his own detective agency.

She worked until she was 71, and she is quick to point out that she wasn't ready to quit then. But she made the best of it and went to work part time. She and Norman moved to Cottonwood in 1998. He died almost two years ago.

Recovering from cataract surgery, 87-year-old Lovey keeps herself busy by surfing the Internet, shopping and sending e-mail on her laptop computer.

She lives independently with her Labrador retriever, Lexie, and volunteers at Mingus Union High School.

Although Lovey does many odd jobs in the school's bookstore, mostly she makes photocopies.

"Right now it's down to 10 hours a week," she said. "But it was up to about five hours a day. Teachers bring in things to be copied constantly. Sometimes we do thousands in one day."

She recently earned a plaque for being the Volunteer of the Month.

Lovey is busy writing an autobiography. She goes to the casino about once a month and says she has won during her last three visits.

She recently passed her driving test and now has a five-year license. Soon, she'll be able to drive at night again. She looks forward to having her life back to normal after the eye surgery.

The worst part of the two surgeries, performed two months apart, was that Lovey had to rely on other people.

"I hated that," she said.


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