'It just brings so much joy'

Marie Havenga • Apr 26, 2018 at 12:00 PM

It was all about smiles and laughter Monday afternoon at Sanctuary at the Shore in Grand Haven.

Dressed as the Little Dutch Girl, Wilma Quist sang and joked her way through an hour of entertainment for residents of the local skilled nursing facility.

Quist, who was born in the Netherlands, has been performing at churches, independent, assisted and skilled nursing facilities since 1991.

Besides her wooden shoes, Dutch hat and dress, Quist brought the south dining room to life with seriously funny jokes and tunes from eras long ago. She relayed a facetious story about how she went to Russ' Restaurant the other day and was talking to a waitress who told her the big difference between a Dutchman and a canoe. Quist deadpanned: “Canoes tip.”

She told the Sanctuary crowd she recently learned the true history of the Grand Canyon — “The canyon was started by a Dutchman who lost a penny in a ditch.”

Just as her fictitious Dutchman kept digging to find his penny, Quist continued to dig for laughs Monday. She told the story of a man coming to her home when she was a kid. “A man came to our door collecting for the children's home. Papa gave him five of us.”

Quist said she loves to make people laugh.

“Laughter is called internal jogging,” she said, equating it to exercise, because when you laugh “your whole body jogs.”

Quist said that her late husband, a farmer, told her a good laugh is like manure. “It doesn't do any good unless you spread it around,” she said.

“I love to laugh,” Quist said. “It makes me feel better. Because sometimes when you cry, the things you cry about you can't do anything about. Keep smiling because people will want to hang around you. You'll have a lot of friends if you're smiling.”

Besides the smiles and laughter she launched, Quist spurred many of the residents into song with her Yamaha keyboard: “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” “Baby Face,” “Can't Help Falling in Love,” “Crazy” and “Sentimental Journey.”

Joy Welch, the community life aide at Sanctuary at the Shore, said Quist wears a different costume each time she visits. She's arrived as Minnie Pearl in the past.

“It just brings so much joy,” Welch said after Quist's performance. “Any kind of music or entertainment really touches them — even folks that have limited vision, cognition, hearing or response. You see their toes tap or their fingers move. It brings life. It brings back memories. It touches their soul.”

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