Healing music


Vietnam veteran Darrel Vik spent his last three weeks with a respirator breathing for him. The chirps and beeps of monitors punctuated his final days at the end of a 10-year battle with lung cancer and heart problems.

“He started feeling the effects of Agent Orange in 1994,” said his wife, Sharon, who along with Darrel and two of their four children had moved to the Henning area after Darrel’s retirement from the military in 1978. He had served in the U.S. Army for 21 years. “He lost one lung to cancer and then two years later it was in his other lung. He also had five-way bi-pass surgery.” Over those last years, Darrel and Sharon spent a lot of time in hospitals, and their children visited as often as they could. Sharon continued to work as a home-health-aid and homemaker. While patients and their families learn hospital routines, the Viks never adapted to the sounds of hospitalization.

“Our oldest son, Dan, who had also retired from the military by then, came for a long weekend,” remembered Sharon. This was during Darrel’s last hospitalization in 2004.

“He couldn’t stand the medical sounds. He asked the staff if he could bring in a music system. So, he brought instrumental music and played it 24/7. There was such a change in atmosphere for Darrel, our family, and for the staff. All those beeps and chirps became endurable.”

Providing music libraries for veterans’ hospitals became a mission for the Vik family after Darrel passed away. In the nine years since then, hospitals in all 50 states have received Darrel L. Vik Music Libraries. Sharon has accumulated several boxes of memorabilia and five albums of photos of dedications of those libraries. More photos will be added next year when they mark the 10th anniversary of their mission when Sharon and Duane Thiel (they married on New Year’s Eve in 2005) and all four of the Vik children gather for a “big presentation” at the National Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

Sharon credits her new husband’s willingness to participate in her family’s project with taking it as far as it has gone.

“I told Duane he’d have to be involved with this project if we were going to get married,” explained Sharon. Duane’s wife had died in 2000 after which he had moved to Darrel and Sharon’s neighborhood west of Henning.

Duane is a retired over-the-road truck driver with a motor home and a penchant for continuing to see the country. As Sharon studied maps and determined which veteran hospitals they could visit on each trip across the country, Duane readied the motor home and planned the rest of the trip. They also decided whether to travel with the three 3-drawer cabinets, six CD players and six cases of CDs that make up each Music Library or take along the cash to purchase the component parts when they reached their destinations. Sharon would also contact the volunteer service officer in each hospital and schedule the delivery of the Music Libraries.

The first Music Library was donated on April 24, 2004; the 50th one on Sept. 29, 2010. Some states have received more than one. Often the Music Libraries were donated in hospitals near where Sharon’s relatives and friends lived, combining the donation with a chance to visit. Her family has been involved in delivering the Music Libraries, too. Her son, Alan, and his wife, Maureen Vik, delivered the Music Library that went to Hawaii. Dan went along with Sharon and Duane two years ago when they went to Alaska. Sharon retired in 2007, giving them more time to travel, which they continue to do. They have friends all over the country now.

While they take care of delivering the Music Libraries, they acknowledge that they’ve had lots of help in the form of fund raisers and donations to finance the libraries. As VFW Auxiliary District President, Sharon has connections and spearheaded the project of raising funds for the Music Libraries. She also raffled a pick-up through the New York Mills VFW Auxiliary, raising $16,000. She persuaded Walmart in Alexandria and Fergus Falls to allow her to sell the raffle tickets in their parking lots. They also generously donated gift cards which she used to purchase Music Library parts.

Throughout Sharon’s travels, during Darrel’s years in the military and seeing the country with Duane, she has collected coffee cups. With about 100 cups from around the USA, she gives presentations called “CUP (Coming Up Prosperous) I Love to Tell the Story.” These presentations are also perfect opportunities to talk about the Music Libraries.

Sharon can be reached at dnsthiel@gmail.com or call 218-770-3870.

#healingmusic #veterans

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