Volunteers and Music – Heart and Soul of Lake Barrington Woods

Everyone’s favorite neighbor, Fred Rogers, said that his mother once told him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” These people may brighten a day with music, serve tea in the afternoon, or plan outings for a group, but regardless of how they help, they are always there. Lake Barrington Woods has been blessed with several such helpers as the heart and soul of the community.

RICHARD—Richard Wagner grew up surrounded by music, so when he and his mother were touring assisted living communities last December, he was pleased to see a piano in the foyer of Lake Barrington Woods. He’s taken lessons since the age of six and as a child he enjoyed listening to his dad play clarinet in the American Legion band. It was, therefore, natural for him to share his heart for music with the senior community when his mother moved to Lake Barrington Woods. He says that there is some tradition involved; in 1974, just out of law school and studying for the bar exam, he often visited his grandmother in a nursing home in Joliet and began playing for the residents there. Richard claims that “Good music is ageless,” and the folks at Lake Barrington Woods agree, gathering around the piano every week as he performs classics like “As Time Goes By” and his favorite opening song, “On The Sunny Side Of The Street”.

PEGGY—Peggy Hawrysko’s mom, Marian, was planning to move to a different senior community, but then Peggy dropped in to Lake Barrington Woods. She was wowed by the sense of “warmth and welcome” she felt during her visit. Her mom soon moved to Lake Barrington Woods and Peggy, who lives close to the community, visits often to help her mother adjust and encourage her to get involved in the daily activities offered. Her frequent visits have grown into volunteering in the community, with Peggy assisting by calling Bingo, going on outings, serving tea, and even watering the flowers on the patio. Peggy says she finds that her time at Lake Barrington Woods helps ease stress, and that the more she volunteers, the better she feels; she can often be found chatting with resident on her way to visit her mother. She says, “I love the team members here!” and with her heart for the elderly, she has become a valued friend to residents and team members alike.

ED—Ed Connelly is a retired music professor who has always been drawn to the piano. He began playing at six years old, on a piano he’d heard his mother play often in their home in Chicago. His love of music continued through high school and college, with not only a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in music, but also a Doctor of Musical Arts degree. Ed taught music at Arkansas Tech University, leaving his mark with a reputation for musical excellence and a scholarship established in his name upon retirement. When he moved to Lake Barrington Woods last year, he was immediately drawn to the piano, playing classical music and drawing a crowd the first time he sat down at the instrument. Ed’s brother Robert, a retired audiologist and speech language pathologist, says that Ed has a rare talent for classical piano, an innate sense of the composer’s aim and an ear for the truest interpretation of any piece he plays. When asked if he is also musically inclined, Robert laughs and says “I’m just the page turner for Ed!” While Ed enjoys Jerome Kern and show-tunes, and is a long-time accompanist, his first love is classical music. A recent program he presented at Lake Barrington Woods included pieces by Chopin, Bartok and Grieg, music that Ed states “wears well.” If the crowd of over 30 people in attendance was any indication, Ed’s love of music has sparked an appreciation in many at Lake Barrington Woods!

Mirka Biegunska, Director of Resident Programs at Lake Barrington Woods, says that residents and team members in the senior community are very active in the local community, giving back by knitting hats for newborns, providing space for local charities, and hosting events. These volunteers truly have a heart for helping, as well as having music-loving souls!

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