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After 50 years in nursing, Shirley Hornfeck had a burning desire to do something really different when she retired from that profession in 2004.

“I’ve always wanted to tap dance,” said Hornfeck, a spry 80-year-old who moved to the Pymatuning Lake area in 2006.

While the chief administrator for a nursing home in Baldwin, south of Pittsburgh, Hornfeck and some fellow nurses did some dance shows for the home’s residents, but “all we knew were one or two tap steps we kept repeating,” she said with a laugh.

One day while getting a manicure at a Conneaut Lake salon, Hornfeck casually mentioned she was planning to take adult tap lessons down in Hermitage, but she was told she need not drive that far — she could take lessons locally at Conneaut Lake.

Hornfeck’s been taking them since 2007 through Lakeside Dance of Conneaut Lake and this spring, in honor of Hornfeck’s 80th birthday, Kelly Lobdell, who runs the studio, and Hornfeck’s fellow tappers gave her a surprise birthday party and a plaque for being an inspiration to the group.

Full of energy, Hornfeck loves to embrace the virtues of learning to tap dance.

“It keeps me alive,” she said of her love of dance.

Lobdell said Hornfeck’s enthusiasm is infectious.

“I love teaching adults who have a passion for dance,” Lobdell said. “She’s very spunky and so much fun. She’s always very encouraging to the other students.”

Since Hornfeck is older than most adult dance students, she doesn’t have the biggest jump or other moves, “but she’s always willing to try,” Lobdell said of Hornfeck. “She always has a big smile. You can tell she’s having a good time. She’s proof enjoyment of life doesn’t end when you get older.”

When practicing for dance recitals, Hornfeck said she’s felt at times like she’s had two left feet.

During a rehearsal for this year’s review, she fell and felt a bit embarrassed.

“I fell gracefully — everyone assured me,” she said before chuckling.

“Jamie Flores (a fellow dancer) told me, ‘If you fall in the recital we’ll all go down and make it look like part of the dance,’” Hornfeck said. “That’s what is so great about the people around here. Everybody is so nice and wants to help each other.”

Hornfeck said she’s blessed to be exposed to so many different things over her life and with the health and family support to enjoy them.

Hornfeck’s advice to seniors is to always be willing to try something new in order to stay active.

“You’ve got to go for it,” she said. “Just do it and hope for the best. What the heck do you have to lose? You might really like it.”

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at

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