One-hundred year old dance instructor Eddie Deems Sr., truly lived up to the saying, “dancing keeps you young”. Deems not only kept dancing, but also continued working as an instructor until just a few months before his 100th birthday.
Eddie Deems Sr., was born on October 6, 1916 in Fort Worth, Texas. Despite becoming fascinated with dance as a teenager, his shyness kept him off of the dance floor until he turned 21. By then he had saved up $10 for ten classes and became hooked; and the rest, as they say, was history. Eddie fell in love with more than just dance, he also fell in love with his instructor Lavonia Bellah, who he married on New Year’s Eve just three months later! Soon after, they opened their own dance school, appropriately named after his instructor turned wife Bellah. The newly wed ballroom instructors did so well for themselves teaching large numbers of students, that they ran four separate studios in the Dallas/Fort Worth area during their peak.
After a half-century of teaching, running their dance studios and raising children, the couple retired, but not for long. Eddie’s partner in life and on the dance floor Lavonia, died of cancer just a few years after retiring. Grief stricken, Eddie decided to dust off his dance shoes and return to teaching to help cope with the loss of his beloved wife. He was quoted in the Star-Telegram as saying that he almost didn’t make it when Bellah died, and that “Dancing kept me going. It gave me something to look forward to.” Dance gave Eddie more than just love, but also brought him solace at one of the most difficult times in his life. In this already heartwarming story, it should come as no surprise that Eddie soon found love again in the ballroom. Upon returning to teaching, and nearly in his 80’s, Eddie fell in love with one of his first students Louise Ratliff, who he married a few years later in 1997. For the next twenty years while in his 80’s and 90’s, the couple’s life revolved around dance, as they taught together in joyful bliss.
Eddie was teaching private lessons and at age 99 still proudly wearing his dark colored dance uniform. Only six months shy of his 100th birthday did he finally hang up his dance shoes, and only due to health issues. Just a few months later, he passed away peacefully at his home on January 1, 2017 with his wife Louise by his side. There is no doubt that his longevity was in large part due to a lifetime of dancing and the love it brought Eddie. He is survived by his wife Louise and his children and grandchildren, two of whom are appropriately named Jitterbug and Suzie Q!