Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

The kind of music that soothes the soul

Washington resident reflects on life, how music helped him deal with loss and forge a new path
Jul 19, 2018
Ole Gingerich plays the keyboard and sings once a month for visitors of Lending Hands.

By Gretchen Teske, The JOURNAL

 

Ole Gingerich is a collector of memories. He has birthday cards, party invitations and pictures stuck so close together, the eye can barely recognize the refrigerator hiding behind them. His kitchen table has magazines, envelopes and reminders stacked so high, he’s considering putting another table on top for additional shelving. Of all the memories he has created and made, his best ones involve his two favorite things: his beloved wife, Adeline Joyce, and music.

Gingerich arrived in Washington in 1955, fresh off the family farm. “I was a teenager looking for a job and looking for a girl,” he said. He found a job as a coal hauler and a girl in his wife of 58 years, Adeline. He and Adeline were married only a year and four months when he was drafted. “I went in when the Korean War was over and then I was down in Fort Hood, Texas. I was in the tanks, aromored, for over two years,” he said. While he was in the army, he suffered a significant loss. “I was 23 years old when I lost over half my hearing,” he said.

Once he left the army, he needed to find a new job, which proved to be a challenge. “When I lost my hearing, I couldn’t take a desk job,” he said. “So, I had to be a horse for a few years.” Gingerich took on a number of jobs, including a gas station clerk, working construction, a front-end lineman and yard foreman.

As his jobs changed and life carried on, Gingerich forgot about his first love: music. His mother played the piano when he was young and his brother the accordion. One day his brother came to him and asked him to learn the bass so they could form a band. “He said, ‘you would really like that,’ and I said I have no experience at it,” he recalled. His brother put tape on the strings so he could learn the chords and he watched his cousin, who played the guitar, so he could memorize what to play. “I really got good at it,” he said with a smile. “I could turn that bass around and slap that thing. That was wild.”

Together, with their cousins and brothers-in-law, they formed a band. They never officially gave themselves a name, because they couldn’t decide on one. “One time we were going to say, ‘in-laws’ but never decided,” he explained. “Then we thought for a while we’d name it outlaws. We never had a name, but everybody knew us.”

The band played all over southeast Iowa at every Moose and Elks Club that would take them. Gingerich’s favorite place to play was Richmond, which they played nearly every Saturday night. “That was filled to the brim, you couldn’t hardly get another dancer out there,” he recalled. They would play each venue from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. for nine dollars an event. “We thought we were really something,” he says.

In the early 2000s, his wife Adeline developed Alzheimer’s. He put the music away and devoted his next years to taking care of her. She lived with him for seven years, until he suffered an injury and was physically unable to care for her. “I fed her every day,” he said through tears.

When she entered the care center at Halcyon House, he moved into an apartment so he could see her whenever he wanted. During the move, he found the keyboard his wife bought him over 10 years ago. She wanted him to learn to play, but Gingerich is not a fan of new technology and would rather learn to play a standard piano. However, his brother talked him into getting the keyboard out and learning to play. Gingerich had always liked to sing, and began playing anything from Johnny Cash to Kenny Rogers. Two of his favorites are “Have you ever been lonely” and “Have I told you lately that I love you.”

Because of all the stress in his life, he needed an escape. He chose Lending Hands. “I needed a place to go hang out and that’s where I went,” he said. He began taking his keyboard and singing for the residents. “I just thought, ‘Oh it’s kind of nice to go (sing) to these older people.’ That’s when I was younger,” he added. “And now I’m one of the older people.”

Gingerich plays once a month, and always draws a crowd. He’s always amazed at how many people arrive to hear him sing. “I never get to practice anymore to learn some newer ones,” he said. “(But) it’s special that they come out to hear me sing.”

Despite being on oxygen and having trouble walking, Gingerich never misses a performance. His arthritis has set in and playing the keys is not as easy as it once was, but he vows not to stop playing until he can’t play any longer.

Adeline passed away July 4, 2014, but Gingerich has collected so many memories and songs, she’ll never be forgotten. “We were married for 58 years and she doesn’t remember the last 15,” he said. “But whenever she saw me, she had that little smile on her face. I miss her dearly.”

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