Published December 19. 2012 12:00PM Updated December 19. 2012 11:34PM
Dana Jensen/The Day
Betty Pitts, center, and Maggie Ramus, right, both of New London laugh when Maggie tells Betty that she intentionally picked her own gift while participating in the Yankee swap during the New London Senior Center holiday party held at the top of the Mohican Hotel apartments Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. Anne Harrington, left, of New London begins to open her gift.
New London — The former Mohican Hotel has a special place in Elizabeth Witter's heart.
As a bride 47 years ago, she spent the first night of her married life in the honeymoon suite at the State Street hotel.
On Wednesday, Witter, who is still married, was back at the Mohican, now a residence for senior citizens. As coordinator of events for the New London Senior Center, she welcomed seniors into the ballroom for the annual Christmas party.
"This room deserves to be used,'' she said.
More than 60 seniors sat at festively decorated banquet tables in the 11th floor ballroom, where a 20-foot Christmas tree towered in one corner and floor-to-ceiling windows offered panoramic views of the city.
They were treated to a turkey-and-ham dinner catered by Captain's Pizza and exchanged $5 gifts in a Yankee swap.
One sly participant put a $5 bill in a small bag and picked her own gift.
"I figured no one would pick a little bag like this,'' she said, laughing.
Maggie Ramus, a longtime member of the senior center who was a mainstay at youth sporting activities while raising her six children in the city, kept her table chuckling as she recalled going to events over the years at the roof garden venue.
"Pfizer used to have its banquets here,'' she said. "Melissa (her granddaughter) had her wedding here. I went to a lot of Greek weddings here. ...
"I remember when they had the guy at the front who would open the door for you, the doorman,'' she said.
She remembered going to the bar on the first floor and watching in awe as a helicopter landed on the roof. Why? She doesn't remember.
"It was a long time ago,'' she said.
One of her daughters lives in the building, which became Mohican Senior Apartments in the 1980s.
Rosalie and Philip Zenobio, who have lived in New London for eight years, said they were shocked at how beautiful the building is on the inside.
"They say it's even prettier at night,'' Rosalie Zenobio said.
Along with the seniors, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, City Council President Michael Passero, Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop and former City Councilor Martin Olsen joined the festivities.
"I think this is a marvelous event, and this venue at the Mohican is really special,'' Olsen said. "It's an honor to be here, and I'll keep coming as long as the seniors invite me."