100-year-old pianist still tickling the ivories

1:58 PM, Mar 3, 2014   |    comments
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(WLTX)

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- At the Life Care Center of Columbia, a South Carolina nursing home, a 100-year-old woman has been putting on impromptu piano shows for the residents living there.

Rosalind Gardner, who is 100-years-and 8-months-old, has been playing the piano for nearly her whole life, and with recent health issues, including some memory loss, some say the sound of that music has started to change.

That might also not necessarily be a bad thing.

Her daughter Rosalind Funk, 71, enjoys listening to her mother play the piano, as does Rosalind's grandson, Charles Funk, who is a music teacher.

"First of all, it's amazing that she remembers music to be so familiar in her age," Charles Funk said.

The draw of her music even attracts many of the residents and staff at the nursing home.

"Most of the time when I come in and I hear her playing, I'll stop, stand there, and listen to her play," said Christine Lykes, a nurse at the facility. "It brings a smile on my face, and as far as the residents are concerned."

Rosalind has been playing without sheet music and letting only her mind guide her hands across the keyboard the same way her whole life.

"I heard it on TV and I'd copy that, just listening to it, and so everything I play is by ear," Rosalind Gardner said.

But after a fall caused her mobility issues, and memory loss recently started running its course, her grandson says the sound of that music has taken a turn.

"I can hear a difference between when she was 80 years old, and that's just probably the mind at 100-plus," Charles Funk said.

Funk was quick to add that she had not skipped a beat in her music, but that the change gives his grandmother "a good authenticity" to her music.

Rosalind Funk said her mother played on the oncology floor at the Palmetto-Richland Memorial Hospital until last year. It was something close to her heart because Rosalind Gardner battled breast cancer 20 years ago herself.

"In a nutshell, yes, she is one tough cookie," Rosalind Funk said. "(Music) is so ingrained as part of who she is, and it's her way of expressing herself."

Even after Gardner's husband died in 1959 after 19 years of marriage, she never stopped playing. Instead, she joined a band, her daughter said.

Now crowds gather at the nursing home each time she sits at the piano to play.

So maybe the music isn't changing after all. Like Rosalind Gardner, it only seems to be getting better with age.

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(Dakarai Turner, WLTX, Columbia, S.C.)

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