Clowning Around with Blanche Kirchoff

Blanche Kirchoff of Marblehead decided at the age of fifty-five to follow her passion for theater by becoming a clown.

“My sister and I were brought up to appreciate theater. We lived in downtown Washington and would attend all the plays and musicals.  We both carried that love through our whole lives.  I couldn’t sing or dance; I had no talent but I had a good personality and could make people laugh.  I was outgoing and could make people comfortable.”

Blanche completed her Bachelor’s Degree at Maryland University and after graduating she eventually went to work for a large department store in Washington as an Inventory Controller. She married and raised three children.  Blanche describes herself as very popular and someone who had a lot of friends; several of these friends were working as clowns.

One of these friends convinced Blanche to accompany her to a meeting for Kapital Klowns. She never looked back.  Blanche loved learning something new whether it was a magic trick, face painting, or animal balloon making.  She continued studying and attending meetings while working her full time job.  Clowning at nursing homes and working at private parties was left for the weekends.

In 1977 Blanche completed her Certificate program in Clowning and retired after seventeen years from her full time position as Inventory Controller. Blanche started performing as “Cassie Jo the Clown.”  She became a member of Kapital Klowns Alley #6 of Clowns of America International.  She has performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the White House, the Capitol, and appeared in many parades in and around Washington, DC and Maryland.  Blanche entertained for the Special Olympics, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and other charity organizations, along with performing at shopping malls, store events, and parties.  There were also several film and television shows she participated in as an extra.

When Blanche, her husband, and youngest daughter, moved to Florida to escape the winters, she went to work at a Sam’s Club as a greeter. That opportunity gave her the chance to use some of her entertainment skills with the children of customers. After her husband passed and Blanche’s own health became a concern, Blanche and her daughter moved to Massachusetts’s North Shore where her eldest daughter resides.

There have been several health issues and surgeries during the past eight years. As a result, Blanche has spent a few occasions in a rehab facility before being able to return to her own home.  In true “Cassie Jo” fashion, Blanche made her rehab stays a party atmosphere by entertaining in whatever way she could; teaching other residents the art of animal balloons for example.  “I always liked being in the spotlight and so that’s what I did.  I was able to enjoy my time in rehab.  I like to have people laugh with me.  But I was always happy to return to my own home and independence.  I don’t think I’d be happy living anywhere but my own space.”

North Shore Elder Services is doing all that is possible in servicing Blanche and making sure she can remain in her home. It is what Blanche wants and what her family wants for her.

With limited mobility, Blanche needs help with everything. “I can’t dress or bathe myself, or fix myself a meal.  I have caretakers coming into my home who have been with me a couple of years.  They know me and I know them very well.  Having the same people really makes a difference to me.”

Blanche also has the loving support of both daughters who live close by and at least one visits daily. Although Blanche receives home delivered meals, her daughter supplements with home-made meals which Blanche appreciates because her daughter is not only a very good cook but “she knows what I like.”

Without the thirty-five hours of home care service Blanche is eligible for through North Shore Elder Services, and the caregiving duties met by two daughters, it would not be possible for Blanche to remain as independent as she is in her own home. She clearly enjoys being surrounded by her many mementos from her career as a clown.  Her home is her haven.

Blanche is quick to say that she is very appreciative of North Shore Elder Services. “I’ve had changes in Care Managers over the years but they have all been great.  Whenever I have needed something I can call my Care Manager and ask.  They have been able to get everything I have needed.  For example, right now I get a month’s supply of Ensure delivered to the house.  That is a huge help to me.”

Blanche is mostly home-bound, especially in the winter, getting out only for the necessary doctor’s appointments. “At eighty-eight years old, the parts are worn out.  But you do the best you can.”  Blanche is a strong believer in maintaining the most positive attitude she can.  Of course her love of laughing and making others laugh has contributed to her upbeat happy attitude.

“I look at it this way. I am in a marvelous location, in a wonderful town, in a state that provides so well for its elderly.  I am just waiting for George Clooney to tuck me into bed at night.”

North Shore Elder Services aims to be there for all their consumers by providing services to help keep people aging in the place of their choice. Our mission is made more possible by the generosity of our many donors.  If you would like to contribute to our cause with a monetary donation, please visit our following website page at http://nselder.org/donate-2/

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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