When LaRue Senior heard that a fraternity was going to be moving in next door to her handsome house on Butler Ave., just north of the University of Utah campus, she says she nearly passed out.
LaRue and Ray Senior have lived in their big brick house for 49 years, and heavens knows they know all about what fraternity boys are like. You couldn't live a block off campus all those years and not have heard their music - and heard the stories. Like the one about the neighbor who got so fed up with the noise and the antics that he kicked in a door at one of the fraternity houses and turned the stereooff.But it turns out that LaRue worried for nothing, because during the past two years since Phi Gamma Delta moved in, a warm relationship has developed between the Seniors at 1409 Butler Ave. and the seniors, juniors and sophomores at 1415.
"My fraternity," is the way LaRue Senior talks about the Fijis. "You don't know what they've been to us," she adds, listing all the nice things the guys have done for her and her husband. And besides, she says, they all have fun.
"We party together on the weekends," explains Fiji president Walt Johnson with a grin.
"And we party in the middle of the week, too," adds LaRue. It doesn't matter that a bottle of oxygen stands in the hallway, or that Ray Senior must now ride a little trolley to get up the stairs. Or that Ray, a former Salt Lake attorney, and LaRue hardly ever get out of the house anymore. All it takes for a party is a little free time.
When the weather is nice, the Seniors invite the Fijis over for dinner on the patio. And if the Fijis have some food left over from a dinner at the fraternity house, they share it with their neighbors.
Johnson says the Fijis feel like the Seniors' house is an extension of theirs. "If we rake our lawn, we rake theirs, too. If we shovel our walk, we shovel theirs." In the fall they serenaded the older couple. At Christmas they took them a decorated tree. And the guys have come running right over when Ray has fallen and LaRue has called them in a panic.
But the kindness has not just traveled east from the Fiji house to the Seniors'. Two Christmases ago, the Seniors sent a surprise Santa Claus over to the boys. And on days when running a fraternity becomes too much for Johnson he seeks the quiet and wisdom he can find next door.
"My whole attitude has changed," says Johnson. "I don't feel bad for old people anymore. I just realize that they need as much love and attention as the rest of us."