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Sharing her love for music

When asked how many songs she can play by memory alone, Dorothy Kammerer just laughs.  Hundreds?  Definitely.  Thousands?  Probably.  Dorothy seems to be a living musical encyclopedia.     Dorothy has been a piano player for as long as she can remember.      “My parents told me I began playing around two. It probably didn’t sound very good, but I was interested and eager to learn.”      It started as nothing more than experimenting with notes, but she showed immediate talent.  At the age of five she began taking lessons, and her love of music has been with her ever since.     Dorothy is a Minnesota native, born in Murray County. She attended school in Ruthton, and when she began high school she was already employed as the organist for Aetna Lutheran, a small church in Ruthton.      “I earned 25 cents each Sunday.  It wasn’t a lot, but it didn’t matter.  I loved it,” Dorothy smiled. After becoming the only person from her country school to attend high school, she continued on to Augustana and received degrees in English and Music.  Upon graduating, she received a job teaching in Oldham, SD, where she stayed for one year.     She then received at job in Bridgewater, SD where she taught for three years.      “We had an exceptional music program in Bridgewater,” she proudly shared. “Our choir took the state championship.”      Following her time at Bridgewater, she returned to Minnesota where she could teach and help her dad with his work. She worked alongside her dad in the fields to help earn a living.  But she quickly clarifies, “It never felt like work then, it was just what you did.”     One morning, while working with her father making hay, a man drove up in a beautiful blue car and a suit and asked if Dorothy could be at the Tyler School Board meeting that afternoon.  After being excused from work by her father, Dorothy ran home to tidy up, not knowing what she was getting into.      “I quickly washed my hair and changed.  But there were no hair dryers then.  I just drove with the windows down so my hair was dry by the time I got there!”      That afternoon, Dorothy was offered and accepted a job in Tyler, Minn., teaching music.     Years of loving music were soon followed by years of love.  She married her first husband, Don, in 1947.  They moved to Morgan, Minn., and raised their two children, Eric and Jean.  Don was a banker and Dorothy continued to share her love of music with her students.  But in 1973, she decided it was time for a change of pace.      “I was ready to retire.  I wanted to be able to travel with my husband, and enjoy life in a new way,” Dorothy explained.     Don and Dorothy both loved to travel, and before he became ill with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, they had big plans to see the world. While he was sick, Don made Dorothy promise to make that happen. And after he passed away in 1981, she did just that. She traveled to Europe, Mexico, and has been to 49 states.  She has yet to see Maine, although she is confident she’ll check it off her list someday.     In 1985, Dorothy was remarried to John Kammerer, a Lutheran pastor and friend of her late husband. After their spouses passed away, they found new love and comfort with each other, and enjoyed 12 wonderful years together. Dorothy laughs as she details their wedding.      “We decided to elope rather than have a large ceremony.  It was just us, the minister and our witnesses.  We thought we’d try to keep it quiet.”     But keeping a wedding in a small town is never easy.  The newspaper headline that week read “Local Pastor Elopes with Church Organist.”     Music has been Dorothy’s companion throughout the many changes in life.  Through childhood, motherhood and marriage, she has had a piano to inspire those around her.      On Feb. 8, Dorothy will turn 92. She proudly shares her age, and the stories of her life.  But most spectacular of all is the way she continues to share music with others.  Dorothy, who lives at Arabella Manor in Alexandria, is regularly out in the community, providing entertainment through music. Elder Network allows Dorothy to receive transportation by volunteers to the many places she plays, including Bethany Home and Nelson Gables.      “Elder Network is such an amazing program.  There is no way I could be out volunteering my time without them,” she shares.  And the facilities she plays at appreciate every moment they can enjoy her talents.     “Dorothy is such a joy to have as entertainment for our tenants,” shares Linda Namur, Director of Housing at Nelson Gables.  “She doesn’t bring any sheet music, but she can take requests from our tenants and play almost any song they like.  It’s amazing!”     Dorothy has enjoyed a lifetime of music, and has shared her incredible talent with hundreds of people.  But as she continues to enjoy her later years, she reminds those around them to make the most of each day.                  “There is life after 90!  And it can be a great life!  Everyone thinks that when they get older the fun ends, but there is so much to do and enjoy if you just let yourself.”

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