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You’re never too old to tickle the ivories

By Katherine Wartell

Playing the piano isn’t just like riding a bicycle.

Lois Kennedy, at five days from her 92nd birthday, knows this, which is why she decided about two years ago to start taking lessons again.

Now, once a week, her teacher, Joyce Nelson, visits and they go over the five assignments Kennedy is working on. Those could be anything from long compositions to practicing scales.

Kennedy has been living at Meadowlark Hills for about six years now and practices the piano each day in the sunny living room of her apartment.

She’s played the piano since she was 8 and took lessons through college, but after her early twenties, Kennedy didn’t receive instruction; it was just something she always wanted to do.

A couple of years ago, one of her sons picked up on her desire to start learning the instrument again, so, Kennedy said, he emailed piano teachers in the area and asked who would be willing to travel to Meadowlark Hills to provide lessons. Nelson was the first to respond.

“I feel like she’s the one who the Lord would have me [take lessons] from,” Kennedy said.

Her favorite pieces of music are written by Beethoven, Chopin and Bach and she loves to play the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

Kennedy doesn’t have any songs she particularly dislikes. “I guess that’s in life, too,” she said. “I don’t focus on the negative.”

Though she admits there are challenges to learning the piano as an adult — like focusing on the intricate details. Kennedy said she doesn’t like to spend a lot of time learning technique. “I just want to get on to the good stuff,” she said.

She plays for her floor at Meadowlark Hills, for friends and family and for her church group, and often, they will have sing-alongs.

Right now, she is working on the “Hallelujah Chorus,” which was played as the recessional at her wedding to Carrol Kennedy, known as Ken to friends and family.

Kennedy was born in Smith Center, the youngest of six. Her family moved to Manhattan when she was eight years old.

She has two brothers and two sisters and all six attended Kansas State University. Her parents wanted all of their children to attend college and figured that if they provided food and board, they would be able to.

In college, Kennedy became engaged but eventually broke it off because she didn’t think her fiancé had a deep enough interest in having a spiritual relationship with God.

Instead of getting married, she attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois.

She knew wanted to find someone who would also have a personal relationship with God and it was on vacation from school that she met the man she would marry.

“I waited long enough,” she said, “and got just the right one.”

Carrol Kennedy was the brother of a friend. He had five sisters who Kennedy is friends with to this day, and when they met, he was on furlough from the army.

Kennedy said they started seeing each other at Christmastime and married in 1945 when she was 25.

Her husband also attended Kansas State University, where he was a professor in family studies and human services. In 1947, they had their first daughter and would go on to have one more girl and two boys.

Her husband died approximately nine years ago. “We were in love and it was just wonderful,” she said. “We grew closer the longer we were together. When he died—I guess you’re never really prepared to live alone, but that’s where my faith comes in.”

Kennedy said she knew her husband wouldn’t want her to give in to grief, so she started creating meaningful relationships with her neighbors at Meadowlark Hills and continued to have strong relationships with her husband’s sisters.

Together, she said they go on trips to places like Florida, the Ozarks and Canada. When they travel, they call themselves the Senior Sibs.

They get along so well, she said, because they had such similar upbringings, like growing up poor, living through the Great Depression and witnessing multiple wartimes.

Kennedy said they don’t travel as much as they used to, but that they still gather for sing-alongs, and though one sister sings, Kennedy is the only piano player among them.

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