Piano man: 83 year old volunteers musical talents at local hospitals

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 6:18 PM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - A Mishawaka man won’t allow retirement or age to retire his love for music.

Every Monday, Dan Eidem, 83, volunteers to play the piano in the cafeteria at St. Joseph Medical Center.

“I want to make sure I’m doing a good job for the audience,” said Eidem.

For close to an hour, he’s perched on the piano bench with his iPad of sheet music.

“There are employees that can hear him like in the close proximity, even though we don’t see them, or he doesn’t see them. They write and say, ‘Oh, I love the Tuesday, or, ‘I love the Monday,’ you know, whatever volunteer’s their favorite. They love when they play the piano, because it just makes that hour of their day so much better,” explained Cari Wilson, regional volunteer director for St. Joseph Health System

Three years ago, Dan began playing every week at the Mishawaka hospital after he and his wife, Susan, moved from Michigan to be closer to family.

“Because of her illness, we couldn’t go to church like we did,” he said. “And [Susan] knew it was important because we had grown up in churches throughout the country and, and I was always a pianist or organist at one of them.”

A military veteran, the Eidems moved a lot for his job as a computer analyst with Ross Perot’s company, Electronic Data Systems. They lived in Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, Detroit, and Atlanta.

“We, as a team, developed the first Medicare system in the country, running on huge computers,” Dan stated. “My background is mathematics and physics. And so music fits in there someplace.”

Playing the piano has been Dan’s daily habit since childhood, even while running eight marathons and raising a family.

“Every day, I’ve got to get at least an hour, every day you know. I’m, I’m always fretting about if I’m things are getting going long too fast, right? I gotta get that hour,” he said.

Sometimes, he gets in a third hour of play.

It definitely brings a lot of livelihood to the main entrance. And it’s a warm and welcoming environment for people as they’re coming in,” said Kara Strang, director of guest services at Memorial Hospital. “Daniel does an absolutely amazing job. It’s absolutely beautiful.”

The 83 year old also performs on Mondays at Memorial Hospital.

“At Memorial, it’s a little different audience because it’s the people coming and leaving,” he said. “I just want to play some music that, that helps soothe them. When you’re in a hospital, whether you’re walking, or in a wheelchair, everything that takes away from the hurts and the pains is valuable. And that’s what I try to provide.”

Playing the piano has been balm for his own grief, when Susan, his wife of 60 years, died from cancer.

“I just told myself that, I said, ‘I’ve got to get out and do the things that I can do, that I like to do and make other people happy and with my music and, and then we’ll let the Lord take it from there,’” Dan said.

Something came of Dan’s divine trust.

“You can pray for something, but, you know, and there’s enough Scripture in there to know that God’s not going to answer every [prayer], you know, on your, on your timetable. You know, He will, He will, but He, He’s in charge. And if you let Him be in charge, you’ll end up okay. And I feel that’s what happened. That’s what has happened with me,” remarked Dan.

Dan fell in love again. His fiancé, Connie Keigley, lost her husband a few years ago.

“When I’m kind of down or whatever and, and, she’s...encouraging me to keep going,” he said.

Connie said Dan’s musical gift is unmistakable.

“And I remind him every day that he’s been blessed with a wonderful gift. And that’s why he shares it with others,” said Connie. “Music is food for the soul. It feeds your soul.”

Connie and Dan reiterated how grateful they are for their families’ support.

Memorial Hospital has five piano volunteers, including Dan, who cover six days each week. Click here for volunteer information.

St. Joseph Health System has two volunteers, including Dan, and is looking for additional pianists. Click here for volunteer information.

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