KENNETT SQUARE >> The man who gained the affection of area residents for his leadership at the Kennett Senior Center was honored with a large banquet on Thursday.
Harry Wackerman capped off his 11 years of running the Book Shoppe, Sunday dinners and Friday night bingo by circulating the room and thanking all of the 100-plus guests who came to honor him.
Throughout his tenure, Wackerman, 71, gained affection and attention from members by his humourous and often goofy performances at center activities.
Whenever the party and event themes involved costumes, Wackerman usually saved his appearance for the concluding act. He was known for parading in fancy underwear, wigs and accessories.
As he took the stage on during the lunchtime hour to say his farewells, he advised that there would be some outstanding photo opportunities coming, and his audience responded by standing by with cell phones.
He proceeded to tell a joke about a parrot and guard dog.
And then, “You know I love purple,” he said.
He warned that he would not take his clothes off, but he held up what appeared to be a new pair of purple boxer shorts, further reminding the viewers that purple was his theme color.
After that he pulled a padded purple toilet seat and made jokes through it while holding it up. Later the guests were invited to sign the seat with good wishes.
His soliloquy took a more serious turn as he said, “It’s been an amazing ride ... I never intended to hurt anyone or embarrass anyone. I did it all for you.”
When he was asked what he would do with his time in his retirement, he said he would remain in his apartment at the Stone Barn complex in West Marlborough and would perhaps sit around and read books about cats.
He said in the future he hopes to work with the expanded shop of Hood’s Barbecue.
Wackerman is a graduate of Lebanon Valley College, where he majored in history and religion.
He has worked at Aramark food service and, in 1968, started a church in Jacobus, Pennsylvania.
Senior center program director Andrea Durynski said she was worried early on that there would be enough food for the luncheon, but as the event gained momentum it was clear that there would be more than needed, as dishes brought by guests lined two sides of the room at three items deep.
Wackerman concluded the banquet announcing, “I have sometimes been a tough cookie to deal with. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”