“What was your song when you got married?” asked Nancy, as she sat down to the piano in the lobby at Oakmont Northville.
The response – “I Only Have Eyes for You” – was perfect for Nancy, as she sat down and immediately started to perform the classic tune. It didn’t take long for other residents to join in, singing along. And so it was for the next half hour or so, with an impromptu concert in the lobby.
Eighty-eight keys on the piano – a perfect match for 88-year-old Nancy, who long ago taught herself how to play the piano. She still plays on a regular basis. In fact, that’s what led her to Oakmont Northville.
Making the rounds on the piano
“Every day, I play,” she said. “I used to play the piano at several senior centers…I went to all types of nursing homes and senior centers, but this is the nicest, the cleanest and has the best food. I love it here.”
What makes Nancy’s skill interesting is she plays without benefit of sheet music. She doesn’t like to read sheet music and prefers to play by ear.
“When I was five years old, I picked up the piano from my grandma. I played it for three weeks, and then she died,” Nancy said. “I loved it so much, I just kept banging on it and banging on it. But now, I can play everything.”
Nancy stays active in a number of ways. In somewhat modern fashion, she met a gentleman named Tally on a dating website, match.com. After meeting a few other men, she was intrigued by Tally’s personality profile. They met at a nearby restaurant three years ago, hit it off immediately and have been dating ever since.
Meeting a special dance partner
“No. 1, he was widowed. No. 2, he’s 6-foot-2 and he’s very nice,” she said. Every Thursday night, they go dancing with other seniors at a hall in Dearborn Heights. “He’s a great dancer. You have to keep dancing. Once you stop, it’s over.
“People say once you get older, it’s over. It’s never over, not until the day you die. But you have to keep living, life is for living.”
Nancy was born in Cleveland, but they soon moved to Detroit. She attended Pershing High School until she left when she was 16. “I didn’t like my teachers,” she said. “I had one teacher, he was such a dork. I didn’t like him at all, so I told the principal either he goes or I go. So I quit school.” She sold hot dogs at a nearby Kresge store on Gratiot Ave. (“My kids would always come in for hot dogs,” she said. “I charged them nothing.”)
“I got married to Len when I was 18 and we were married over 60 years,” said Nancy, who has six children and 45 grandchildren. “I never dated, though. When you are Sicilian, you didn’t date, my dad wouldn’t allow that.”
It turned out well for them. Nancy has six children and 45 grandchildren.