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Dad’s love of music lives on

| June 21, 2020 1:00 AM

Dad’s been gone 11 years, but his music still plays in my mind.

If I close my eyes I see his content grin, a mixture of pride and concentration, as his fingers dance up and down the keys of his piano accordion. He could belt out polkas, waltzes and favorite hymns with the best of them.

Dad bought his first accordion, a Hohner Diatonic two-row button model, when he was just 14 and had sold his 4-H steer to help afford the instrument. It was a mail-order purchase from the Montgomery Ward catalog; the price tag was $15.

“My uncle played an accordion, and was the one who taught me how to play the good old Scandinavian tunes which are still my favorites,” Dad recalled in a 1995 article published in connection with the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion held annually just a few miles from our farm in Rollag, Minnesota. Dad was part of the entertainment line-up there for many years after he retired from farming.

Before he was married my father played the accordion at various “house parties” that were common in his day. But once he married Mom and had a family, the accordion music stopped for many, many years. He was just too busy farming and raising four children. I had no idea how good his accordion-playing skills were until he picked it back up after the last of us four had graduated and flown the coop, so to speak.

It didn’t take Dad long to regain his accordion prowess, and before long, my folks were traveling to an annual accordion competition somewhere in eastern North Dakota. Dad routinely won first-place trophies in the senior citizen division. I still have one of his trophies tucked away for posterity.

Even though Dad took such a long hiatus from playing, he didn’t stray far from his love of music. It was instilled in each of my siblings. Oldest brother Arlen has a collection of more than 8,000 LPs and once upon a time could play Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” flawlessly on the piano. Middle brother Rodney sings in the Great Plains Harmony men’s chorus in the Fargo, N.D. area, and youngest brother Wayne is the lead singer and plays keyboard and guitar for a Fargo band called Road Trip Radio. I sing in the church choir, play handbells, flute, and once upon a time was a church organist for a few years. Each one of us is drawn to music like iron to a magnet.

Mom always joked that musical ability skipped over her, and while she wasn’t a performer, she was the encourager who made us practice the piano and made sure she and Dad attended all of our band concerts.

Thankfully, Wayne had the foresight to record a CD of Dad’s best accordion tunes before neuropathy in his hands stole his ability to play the last few years of his life. It’s been a long time since I’ve played it, so maybe I’ll pull it out today — Father’s Day — as a tribute to our music mentor.

News editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.