Jane Hagenow: With a song in her heart

Retiree returns to entertain residents of nursing home

Volunteer Jane Hagenow of Woodstock plays the piano for residents at Hearthstone Manor while they enjoy lunch in Woodstock.
Volunteer Jane Hagenow of Woodstock plays the piano for residents at Hearthstone Manor while they enjoy lunch in Woodstock.

She may have retired years ago, but Jane Hagenow still goes back to her work several times a week.

This time, she’s volunteering.

For nearly 20 years, Hagenow, 77, of Woodstock, worked in housekeeping at Hearthstone Communities in Woodstock, a senior and assisted living center.

She retired in 2000.

“I took a few years off,” Hagenow said. “I didn’t want to blend my years. But after I retired, I wanted something to do, so I started volunteering.”

She began by going back to Hearthstone, helping out with the mail once a week.

Then she started tinkering around on the piano, which led to her being scheduled regularly. She began with Mondays, conducting a sing-along for residents in the assisted living unit where she plays the “oldies but goodies.”

Now she also goes in on Tuesdays, where she plays during lunchtime for residents receiving nursing care or rehabilitation services.

Playing piano was always something Hagenow did just for fun, never in front of anybody.

“I used to do it for my own entertainment,” Hagenow said. “Now I do it because they enjoy it and I enjoy going in.”

When she was about 7 or 8 years old, Hagenow took professional lessons for about three months, but the piano teacher said it was a waste of money.

That’s when she developed her own style.

“I play by ear,” Hagenow said. “I don’t read notes.”

But she still has a repertoire of about 130 to 140 songs, such as “Tennessee Waltz,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Oh! Susanna.” She also can play some polkas.

She doesn’t have a piano of her own at home anymore; that was handed down to her daughter. She also had an organ, but then she and her husband ran out of space.

Hearthstone activities coordinator Virginia Campbell nominated Hagenow as an everyday hero.

“The residents of Hearthstone appreciate Jane’s musical talent and the time she devotes to spreading joy to all she meets,” Campbell said. “After working there for so many years, Jane’s heart belongs to Hearthstone, and it shows with every visit.”

Hagenow said she enjoys the people at Hearthstone, both the residents and the employees.

“I know some of the workers that are still there from when I was there,” she said. “Some of the ones I hired are still there.”

As long as she can still hear, she plans on playing, Hagenow said.

Plus, Hearthstone has her kind of crowd.

“I’ve always like older people,” she said. “I can communicate with them really well.”

The Hagenow lowdown

Who is she? Volunteer piano player at Hearthstone Communities.

Age: 77

Hometown: Woodstock

Family: Husband of nearly 59 years, Clarence; four adult children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren

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