Seniors create ‘Senior Moments’ for seniors

Exclusive | Living Treasures: Part two of a series

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Every weekend, Stuart and Nina Held prepare an outline for their weekly radio show on LIU Post’s WCWP FM. With over 250 episodes under their belts, Stuart, 80, and Nina, 78, are old pros at this gig. What started as a small show, during which the Helds interviewed their friends and played their favorite music, has turned into a smooth-running cultural and educational program with interviews of judges, business owners, politicians and doctors. It has even acquired a global audience, thanks to Facebook.

The Helds met over 60 years ago, in front of a fire hydrant across the street from Prospect Park in Brooklyn. They both attended Erasmus Hall High School, and they quickly became high school sweethearts. Stuart was a member of the boys’ glee club, and he convinced Nina to join the girls’ chorus. They have been singing together ever since.

They have always been artistically inclined. Nina, an illustrator, studied at the Parsons School of Design, and later went back to school to study acting. As a character actress, she landed jobs in many commercials and was an extra on soap operas. Stuart worked for Nikon, and was part of the marketing team that brought the company to the U.S. The couple also sang in their local synagogue’s choir for many years.

Their creative endeavors continued to expand when they helped found Theater II of Glen Cove in 1968. The group’s members were from the Deasy School PTA, and included all the Helds’ friends, and the friends’ children. Everyone had a role, either on stage or behind the scenes.

Members did everything themselves — they learned stagecraft, built the sets, controlled the lights, created the costumes — down to the last detail. And their reputation grew. They were soon filling the 800-seat auditorium that would became the Wunsch Art Center in Glen Cove. Through fundraisers and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the group was able to hire professional directors. It staged shows like “Guys and Dolls,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Carousel” — which cost about $14,000 to produce and featured a working carousel.

The troupe performed until the 1990s, when many of the original members had aged and their children were starting families of their own.

“It was all just one huge, happy family,” Nina recalled. “It was a wonderful, wonderful time in our lives. The theater group itself provided us and our family with wonderful experiences.”

The Helds have also been active members of the Glen Cove community. They led Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and Stuart managed the Little League baseball team. Politically, they helped raise money for local and state campaigns, and Nina worked for the Nassau County Board of Elections, while Stuart was the assistant to the county commissioner of parks.

When a new administration took over the county in 2010, however, the Helds lost their jobs.

But they have stayed busy. They began attending classes at the Glen Cove Senior Center, and Nina eventually joined the SAGE Foundation, the center’s fundraising branch.

One day, the center’s executive director, Carol Waldman, told Nina that the station manager at WCWP FM was looking for a couple to host a senior-based radio show. She said she thought of Nina and Stuart first.

In the beginning, the Helds had no clue what they were going to do on the air, but the first step was coming up with a name. They were brainstorming with some friends when Stuart had an idea, but didn’t want to interrupt. When it was his turn to speak, he couldn’t remember what he wanted to say. “I’m having a senior moment,” he said. And fittingly, that became the show’s name.

Today, “Senior Moments” is an hour-long show with multiple music breaks and a wide variety of guests. While they are not paid, the Helds view the show as their job. They offer their audience fun facts, and have a “Wacky Word of the Week” segment. “We want to expose our audience to everything,” Nina said. “It keeps us involved.”

Even at their ages, the Helds are as lively as ever, and credit the radio show for helping them stay mentally fit. “It keeps us sharper than if we were just watching the news all the time,” Nina said. “It keeps us stimulated.”

The Helds also credit their love of the arts for their long and happy life together. “That’s one of the things that has carried us through our 60 years of marriage,” Stuart said.

“Senior Moments” is sponsored by the Glen Cove Senior Center, and airs Tuesdays at 11 a.m. on 88.1 FM. You can listen online at www.glencoveseniorcenter.com/senior-moment-radio/.