By: Alan Lewis Gerstenecker at The Western News
“Whisperin’ Bill” Anderson performed for and delighted hundreds Saturday evening at the Memorial Center, but it was the showing he made hours before at the Libby Care Center that both he and the seniors he thrilled will remember most of Libby.
At 74, Anderson is older than many of whom he graciously signed photographs for Saturday, just hours before he hit the Memorial Center stage.
“We have photos for you, and they’re absolutely free. And, if that’s not a good deal, we’ll pay you a dollar to take them,” Anderson joked to an excited group, many in wheelchairs, in the commons area at the center.
This country music legend, with a Top-10 hit in six decades, moved about the room with all the glamour of a politician and with the grace of a diplomat.
Clad in neatly ironed jeans and sporting an Atlanta Braves jacket, Anderson is not pretentious.
“The Braves are my team. I grew up just outside Atlanta,” he said recalling his roots.
The Braves may be his team, but Anderson knew these ARE his people, the folks who have purchased his albums for the last 60 years. He gives the impression he enjoys his life immensely.
“I really love this,” he said. “I’ve had Top-10 records for six decades, and now I’d like to have one in a seventh,” he said.
Clearly, this is a man who has kept his feet grounded, said Kandis Peterson, Libby Care Center Admissions Specialist.
One of the residents for whom Peterson cares is Ken Hoyt, 70, a big “Whisperin’ Bill” Anderson fan.
Hoyt also is terminally ill with stomach cancer, as doctors have given him four months to live.
Among Peterson’s duties, she tries to grant “final wishes” for those residents who days at the center are numbered.
“Ken told me he wanted to fly, and I told him, I ‘might not be able to grant that,’” Peterson said. “So, I asked him, what else? Can we go on to the second item on your bucket list?’”
“He told me he’d like to meet Bill Anderson. That’s when I called Ms. Ryan (Morford).”
Patricia Ryan-Morford works with the agency that booked Anderson’s visit to the Memorial Center.
“She was great,” Peterson said of Ryan Morford. “She arranged the whole thing.”
Hoyt got a chance to converse with Anderson; shook his hand and the two talked about country music — Bill Anderson’s music.
“You know, Bill, not a lot of big country music stars would come here to little ol’ Libby and a senior center at that,” came a comment.
Anderson, paused a moment as he composed himself, with a tear welling in his eye, and said: “You know, I hope I never get that big.”
He then turned, and shook the hand of a woman who is a stroke victim, greeting them in his gentlemanly manner.
When all were satisfied, he turned and waved.
“We’ll see you next time,” Anderson said, disappearing down the long hallway.