Posted: June 7, 2021
By Jutta Anderson
Bev Nelson playing on a donated grand piano by Donovan Hommen
When the Aase Haugen nursing facility was donated a beautiful grand piano by Donovan Hommen, Assisted Living got the upright piano which was no longer in use in the big gathering place over there. It stands now by the entrance to our dining room. Some of us remembered what we learned in piano lessons many, many years ago and tried to play tunes with one finger. 92-year old Bernie was seen trying out “At the Waltz,” an old Czech tune, with two fingers. After finding sheet music in the piano bench, still others used two hands, and you could hear “Yankee Doodle” or “On Top of Old Smoky” with lots of stops and corrections. Then Bev Nelson, one-time church organist, sat down at the ivories. She used to play for services in various Methodist churches. Growing up in Iowa, southwest of Spencer, she had several piano teachers over the years, “two of them were really outstanding ones,” she stressed. When Bev found an old hymnal in the bench, she felt at home. She started practicing, and the doors of nearby apartments opened slightly so the tenants could listen to her playing. Others, down the hall hummed along while working on a challenging jigsaw puzzle. There is more familiar sheet music in Bev’s house here in Decorah. We all hope that her own material gets to Aase soon.
Bev does not claim to be an artist when it comes to playing the piano or being involved in any other form of art, but, she explains, “I have the soul of an artist.” Just look at how she puts simple clothing together, and you know that she has an aesthetic spirit. In pre-COVID days you could see her attend concerts, poetry and visual art lectures at Luther College in buildings that her husband, a former structural engineer, had helped the late architect, Don Gray, to design.
Bev’s husband resides at Aase Haugen, too. Roy lives in the Aase Haugen Memory Unit.