Someone You Should Know: Spreading joy through her music

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 4:55 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - About every day at the Good Samaritan Nursing Home in De Smet, Marian Cramer comes to play.

“She always comes after breakfast and plays. Coming down the hall mid-morning, music is coming from this room every morning,” said nurse Mary Lee.

“Music is very important to me,” said Marian.

It has been for eighty years, since she took her first piano lesson while growing up on a farm near Frankfurt.

“There wasn’t much cash money floating around, so my mother thought I needed piano lessons. She took me into town, and I took three dozen eggs along for my lessons. I got my piano lessons, and they worked well,” said Marian.

That started a lifetime on the keys of an organ or piano for the now 88-year-old.

“I played for the Spirit Lake Presbyterian Church 65 years as an organist — that’s the church between De Smet and Willow Lake. I played for churches all over the area — lots of weddings, and some funerals,” said Marian.

In recent years, things have become a little bit more of a challenge for Marian.

“I have macular degeneration. I do not see the features of your face. I see the bulk of you. I can’t read notes anymore, but I’ve been an organist for so long, and a pianist for so long, primarily in a church, and the hymns are all up here. I play not just by ear, but by memory,” said Marian.

“It’s just staggering the sheer number of hymns she has in her mind and in her heart. I think for residents and for staff, it is an incredible reminder that God is never done with us. There are always things that we can do for him, no matter what our circumstances look like,” said Social Services Coordinator Stuart Twite.

“I know she doesn’t see well at all. She can’t see the keyboard, but she can still pick those melodies out, and I think that’s amazing,” said Mary.

And she’ll continue to make music while her fellow residents come to listen and sing.

“She just kept it up until it got better and better and better. She can play anything. It’s marvelous,” said resident Bonnie Munger.

“She can just play anything, and I just marvel at that. I can’t play with one finger. I’m lucky if I can to that,” said resident Joan Rich.

“I just feel all the residents here are my church, my friends, and they come. It’s something that I feel good doing,” said Marian.

Marian also taught music for the Willow Lake School District for 35 years. She’s also a South Dakota historian, who’s written columns for many area newspapers.