CARO — Visitors at the Tuscola County Medical Care Facility might find Elizabeth “Susie” DeWald playing piano in the common room, but she only plays if no one’s around.
“I heard somebody talking about that piano in the common room, so I thought to myself, ‘if nobody’s around, maybe I’ll go down and make a little noise by myself’,” DeWald said. “So I got my nerve up and I went down on a Saturday afternoon … I hadn’t played in two or three years and I was rusty.”
About three years ago, DeWald, 93, of Akron, moved to the medical facility in Caro after surviving a head-on collision near Tri County Equipment on M-24.
“She got along fine on her own up until this happened,” said Barbara Prime, of Fairgrove. “She’s quite spunky for her age … she’s just a delight to be around.”
Prime said she and DeWald became friends after the two often ran into each other at Castamore Zangalotti’s, a hometown diner in Fairgrove.
“I’ve known her for quite a few years,” Prime said. “She’s been quite an inspiration to me … we’ve had a lot of fun times together.”
DeWald was brave enough to play for The Advertiser Wednesday. She played her favorite song, ‘It’s a Small World’, giggling at herself in between each verse.
Listening nearby was another friend, Pat Gibbard, of Akron, who often visits DeWald and occasionally takes her back to Akron to spend the day.
“You sound very good,” Gibbard told DeWald.
“That’s what they tell me,” she said.
DeWald spent most of her life in Akron, and when she was young, she took piano lessons from a cellist who charged 25 cents for a 30-minute lesson.
“I started by learning some simple songs,” DeWald said. “So she’d sit down and play the cello while I was playing these simple songs … I took very few lessons, but I learned to read the music.”
DeWald’s cousin, Eva Steele taught her useful mnemonics like, F-A-C-E, which represent the treble clef space notes.
“I learned to read music from my cousins,” DeWald said. “Talented ladies they were.”
Prime said DeWald is humble about her talent.
“She doesn’t like to boast about playing the piano,” Prime said.
Residents at the care facility who happen to be listening often applaud her when the song ends.
DeWald even recalled a time when she received a standing ovation.
But she prefers to play without an audience.
“Sometimes I play a hymn,” she said. “I get my songbook out and play ‘Snowbird’ and those nice little songs … down here, I feel relaxed because there’s nobody in the room.”
Gibbard said DeWald is popular in the Akron community and when they stop in the Castamore diner, they’re guaranteed to run into someone she knows.
“Everybody knows her,” Gibbard said. “Everybody who walks in, says, ‘Hi Susie,’ … There’s so many people who love that old girl.”
When she’s not practicing piano or playing bingo, DeWald is keeping up with the Detroit Tigers.
“She loves the Detroit Tigers,” Prime said. “She’s always up on the Tigers.”
The walls in DeWald’s room are decorated with Tigers logos and pictures.
“I can’t bring my organ up here,” she said. “It’s too big.”
So when she’s in the mood to play again, DeWald will likely return to the common room and warm up with her favorite song.