92-year-old pianist lifting hearts and sparking smiles

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PARSONS, Ks. — 92-year-old volunteer pianist Betty Hanson is lifting spirits and sparking smiles.

“It makes their heart swell and if they’re down, it makes them feel better,” said Hanson.

Hanson has been playing music at Good Samaritan Society in Parsons for the past 13 years.

She says its all started after visiting a friend in an assisted living home.

“She was so unhappy,” Hanson said. “I went to see her, she wasnt eating and she loved music. So, I said, ‘Well, let’s just go in here in the chapel and we’ll do some music while the rest of the people were eating.’ We went in there and she started to perk up.”

Hanson’s love of music started when she was five and she taught herself how to play a pump organ.

She plays the music from memory and does not know how to read sheet music.

“I have to know the melody before i can play a song,” Hanson said.

The residents spent the afternoon gathering around the piano — requesting music for their monthly sing-a-long.

“I look forward to when she comes here,” said resident Joanna Mundy. “‘Rugged Cross-‘ that’s my favorite one. And ‘Amazing Grace.'”

“They’re happy!” said resident Mary Seager. “You see where they are at — they’re all here. It feels good, we want to dance.”

Before COVID-19 hit, Hanson was playing at five nursing homes every month.

With restrictions lifting, she can now be back to doing what she loves.

“She was so excited when we called her and told her she could come back,” said Crystal Packard with Good Samaritan Society. “All during the COVID virus, she would call us every couple of months just to check on us and see how we are all doing.”

“I feel like there’s nothing any better,” Hanson said. “I just love it.”

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