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'I thought it was a dream'

Residents of a retirement community are delighted with a feast of fresh lobsters flown in from Maine.

By ROBERT KING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 15, 2002


Waiting on her first lobster dinner in more than 40 years, the memories came rushing back for Marion Doremus.

She remembered how, back in the 1940s, she and her co-workers at General Electric used to go into New York's Greenwich Village and eat lobster at a restaurant whose name now escapes her.

She remembered how, back in the 1950s, when she lived in the Washington, D.C., area and served in the Adjutant General's Corps, she and friends would eat lobster at a wharf.

The memories of "sweet" lobster meat and good times caused Doremus, now 78, to get a little choked up as her lobster was about to arrive Friday evening. "I just can't wait for this," she said.

Doremus was one of about 200 residents of the Atria Evergreen Woods retirement community who took part in the fresh lobster feast.

Atria had 400 pounds of lobster flown in fresh from Maine on Friday as a special treat for residents in honor of National Assisted Living Week.

At Atria Evergreen Woods, the average resident is in his or her mid 80s. The residents live in apartments and receive help with meals, housekeeping or other aspects of daily living, as needed.

The lobsters were an idea that began as a joke.

Holly Zielinski, the community relations director at Evergreen Woods and the daughter of a Maine lobsterman, was preparing to return home for a week recently when her boss, Avi Elias, suggested maybe she should bring back some lobsters.

The more they talked, the better the idea sounded.

When she got to Maine, Zielinski started shopping around the wharfs on Bailey Island in Casco Bay, where she grew up.

She found a place that would supply 300 lobsters for less than $8 apiece.

The whole shipment cost about $2,700.

"This is our gift to our residents," said Zielinski.

The lobsters arrived Friday morning via FedEx in special crates packed with dry ice. After they were cooked, Zielinski gave the wait staff a crash course in shelling lobsters.

The result was what the residents dubbed their "Monstah Lobstah Fest."

Julia Brown, who had made it through life for 90 years without trying a lobster, gave it a go Friday, but decided lobster just wasn't for her.

Maria Widman, a longtime lobster fan, couldn't have been more delighted when she heard lobster was on Friday's menu. "I thought it was a dream," she said. "I love lobster."

But few people got more out of Lobster Fest than Doremus.

While the other folks at her table ordered a nonalcoholic O'Douls, Doremus requested a Busch Light beer for the occasion.

She plunged morsels of lobster into a cup of butter and then into her mouth, savoring the combination.

Suddenly, she was back with her friends in Greenwich Village, and it was the 1940s again.

"If they could see me now," Doremus said.

-- Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to rking@sptimes.com

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