YORK—Every Friday, music fills the dining room of the Mahoney House retirement community.
Like clockwork, Art Fredrickson pulls up a bench behind an electronic piano, and plays for the residents and employees. “Most of them like old music, so that’s what I usually play – old hymns and old ballads,” he said.
Fredrickson estimated he’s played 8-9 years at Mahoney House, rarely missing a day. “He is here at least 45 minutes before noon,” said Tammy Coffey, Mahoney House Executive Director.
Mahoney House residents – and staff – look forward to hearing him play, Coffey said. “All of the residents love his music, and our employees look forward to seeing Art every week.”
The feeling is mutual. “I enjoy doing it. I love old people because I am one myself,” Fredrickson, age 93, said. He added that he also does it for the love of music itself. “I like to play music the way I would like to have it played,” Fredrickson said. “To say I’m an expert in music – oh no!”
Fredrickson learned to play at about nine years old. “There was an old lady who gave piano lessons,” he said. “She did her best to teach me how to play.”
Much like Mahoney House, music would fill the air at Fredrickson’s childhood home. “I love music, and my whole family loved music,” Fredrickson recalled. “My father was a pretty good piano player.”
Fredrickson’s playing is truly unique, though. “I haven’t heard anyone else use my style,” he said. “I like to do it, and I do it the best I can.”
In 1943 Fredrickson took a hiatus from playing, enlisting in the U.S. Army to serve in World War II’s European theatre. “I didn’t get to play much in the service,” he said.
Instead, he found himself landing in Naples, Italy, on the way to heavy fighting in the Alps. “We reached Rome, and that was considered a neutral city,” Fredrickson said. “Right on the other side of Rome was where the heavy fighting started.”
Fredrickson said he remembered his infantry sending a unit ahead to scout. “The corporal wanted me with him,” Fredrickson said. “He took a trust in me and took me everywhere he went.” Fredrickson surmised it was because he had taken Latin in high school. “I don’t talk really good Italian, but I knew how to make myself understood. That was kind of important.”
Fredrickson was discharged in 1946, and now he communicates in a more universal way: through his music.
“It’s more relaxed in the dining room during lunch,” Coffey said. “It really provides some great joy and relaxation for the residents. He will be greatly, greatly missed if he stopped.”
“Some old people have things that are holding them back – sometimes they can’t express themselves. I hope I’m helping them in that respect.”
Read more stories about our local veterans in tomorrow’s (Saturday, Nov. 9) York News Times Veteran’s Day special section.