Seniors learn to pick and grin for free thanks to Oak Ridge man

Seniors learn to pick and grin for free thanks to Oak Ridge man

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For the past nine years, Wendell Cook has been teaching guitar at the Oak Ridge Senior Center For the past nine years, Wendell Cook has been teaching guitar at the Oak Ridge Senior Center
"We get together and have a good time, sing a few songs and tell a few jokes - corny ones mostly, but we have a good time," Cook said. "We get together and have a good time, sing a few songs and tell a few jokes - corny ones mostly, but we have a good time," Cook said.
Students follow Wendall's example. Students follow Wendall's example.
nursing homes and elsewhere.  "We're not that hot, but people at the nursing homes think we are and that's what matters," Charlie Orr said. nursing homes and elsewhere. "We're not that hot, but people at the nursing homes think we are and that's what matters," Charlie Orr said.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

OAK RIDGE (WATE) - At the Oak Ridge Senior Center, if it's Friday morning, it's Wendall Cook time.

Wendall is a local musician who for the past nine years has been offering free guitar lessons to anyone who shows up.

And lots of people show up.

On Friday mornings, the guitars are tuned up and the music sheets passed out.

There is a sense of excitement. It's not Carnegie Hall, but for those gathered here, it might as well be.

For the past nine years, Cook has been teaching guitar at the center. He does it for free because he enjoys it, and he feels he's doing a community service.

"We get together and have a good time, sing a few songs and tell a few jokes - corny ones mostly, but we have a good time," Cook said.

On the morning we visited, there was a big crowd.  Among them was Jack Copeland, who took up the guitar two years ago.  He describes his progress as slow, but not because of Wendall.

"Wendall is fantastic. He's very patient. He loves what he's doing. If he didn't love it, he wouldn't do it," Copeland said.

Also in the crowd was Charlie Orr.  As a young man, he played some music, but he says life got in the way and he had to put it aside.

Since he retired five years ago and joined Wendall's class, he's gotten pretty good. In fact, he's a member of the Golden Eagles, a group of intermediate and advanced players who perform at nursing homes and elsewhere.

"We're not that hot, but people at the nursing homes think we are and that's what matters," Orr said, smiling.

Wendall's teaching philosophy is to keep it simple. He realizes that for most, this effort at pickin' and grinnin' is just for fun.

"It's a social activity. It helps the Senior Center and it keeps them active. It keeps their minds active their hands and fingers active and it's a fellowship kind of thing," Wendall said.

It's also very much a Spirit of East Tennessee kind of thing.


If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at gpatterson@wate.com.

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