As dementia withered his brain away, Edward Hardy, 93, a World War II veteran and former pianist, felt his spirit fade, too. His illness had forced him to move into a retirement home in southern England last year, while his wife of 75 years, Betty, lived alone at their home.
In December of last year, Sam Kinsella, the retirement home’s activities coordinator, noticed Edward’s depression and arranged to bring the vet’s beloved keyboard to the home in an effort to cheer him up.
The moment he placed his hands on the ivory keys, Edward’s entire demeanor changed. He could no longer read music or remember every single note, but each time he tinkered, it suddenly seemed as though the years were melting away. Sam listened in awe as Hardy’s fingertips danced across the keyboard playing jazz standards and the foxtrot.
Although dementia had crippled Edward’s memory, Sam told SomersetLive that when Edward plays the piano, “it all comes back to him—he’s an incredible musician and it seems to bring him a lot of joy.”
Despite his solo talent, Edward was an accomplished group musician and had played in a jazz band for nearly 40 years before losing touch in the 1980s. Kinsella thought playing in a group again might boost Edward’s spirits even more, so he submitted an advertisement to Gumtree, a British “help wanted” website, looking for musicians who would be willing to play with Edward for an afternoon.
More than 80 musicians from across the country replied to the ad, eager to make music with Edward.
Double bassist Greg Cordezz and saxophonist Jezz Jackson were two of the first to play alongside him at the retirement home, and the experience was profound. “Ed really inspires me,” Jezz told SWNS.com. “[He] was born in the 1920s and has lived through all the major eras of music so this was also a special opportunity to perform with him.”
The biggest surprise, though, came when three of Edward’s former bandmates responded to the ad.
After being separated for more than three decades, “it is marvelous that I’ve been reunited with my old band,” he told SWNS.com.
Now, Edward’s original jazz band is rehearsing for a reunion show at the retirement home later this year. That, coupled with his wife Betty, 91, joining him at the home, has brought a smile back to Edward’s face.
“I have missed playing and when I do play now it makes me feel better and young again,” Edward told SWNS.com.