PORT NECHES —
Community Connection: Port Neches Senior Center
Fast Fact: Rita Miller danced on American Bandstand.
Quick Quote: "Encourage people to help and keep active. The rewards are endless."
Rita Miller’s love for dance has passed from generation to generation, to her daughter who had an International House Scholarship for dance and her granddaughter, who “loves to dance” as well. It’s something they can all do together.
Miller grew up in South Philadelphia. "It was a town where they just danced constantly," she said.
Friday and Saturday nights, they would go to dances at the Catholic churches and after school during the week Miller and her cousin went to North Philadelphia to dance on American Bandstand.
American Bandstand was a music show that aired from 1952 to 1989 hosted by Dick Clark for most of it's years.
"Dick Clark was s gentleman," she said. "He would introduce new music and give new musicians their first break. They had music playing the whole time."
Most of the dancers on American Bandstand were high school students but they didn't go to be seen on TV.
"Those people just went there to dance. There were regulars that were on scene a whole lot but my cousin and I just went for fun. It was just a fun place," she said.
When Miller and her cousin weren't at American Bandstand after school, they would turn music on and just dance in front of their row homes, or town houses.
"Growing up, we didn’t know all the sexual stuff. Dancing was just for fun. We didn’t get in trouble. Philadelphia was a town of brotherly love. They just took care of each other," Miller said.
"It was church, school, and dance. That was life," she added.
"Being raised in Philadelphia seems like such a long time ago. I worked in the Health and Wellness field for 25 years with so many memories. American Bandstand is just the place where I grew up and had some fun. Going to an all girl Catholic School, dancing was our time to socialize. It was like coming to the Senior Center back then," she explained.
Moving here 4 years ago, Miller quickly found the Port Neches Senior Center, where they line dance.
“Rita is a real sweet, sweet lady. I’m glad she moved down to Texas. She is always bubbly and a lot of fun,” Bonnie Boutte, senior center member said.
“You've gotta see her dance. She is great,” Grace Beaty, senior center member said.
Between living in Philadelphia and Texas, she worked in health and wellness and then got into the senior community when her husband was transferred to North Carolina.
"That is what God put me here for, health and wellness. Caring at hospitals to help people care about themselves," she said. "It is so much more important than American Bandstand. I found that this love of music and dance. It opened many doors to do God's work. Many seniors were lonely and in need of just having some fun, something to look forward to. As a Certified Trainer of Special Populations, I was asked to do a water therapy classes and wheelchair strengthening classes. The need for more Senior health and wellness programs grew. I felt this was a true calling to just help someone smile and forget their troubles for a while. Music seemed to bridge the gap between young and old. The need grew for Senior programs."
Her husband, Russ, got involved by taking photos and filming events sponsored by The Council of Aging.
"It was a time of giving back and bringing joy to people that sometimes were forgotten. This Volunteer work was blessed over and over again. Friendships were formed and God's gift of the love of music and dance had come full circle." Miller said.
The Miller's planted a seed and since their move to Texas, health and wellness classes have prospered in North Carolina.
"We still keep in touch and thank the Lord every day for this season in our lives. Now I am enjoying the fun at the Senior center and hubby and I are God's helpers whenever needed," she added.
Rita and Russ met by her teaching him dance lessons. They have now been married for 47 years and have three children and one granddaughter.