News: Neillsville - Restored Piano (New Home - 2015)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Drescher, Malloch, Lipscy, Langreck, Knoop, Short, Dickinson, Petkovsek, Ruedy
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 10/14/2015
Restored Piano at American Legion Hall (New Home - 2015)
Restored Piano finds new home at Neillsville American Legion Hall
Sheri (Drescher) Malloch plays a selection on the refurbished 1914 Hobart M. Cable upright piano that was recently contributed to the Neillsville American Legion; Malloch, also donated the piano bench that was made by her uncle Don Drescher, who served in the U. S. Army along with his brother, Dutch. (Photo by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)
By Todd Schmidt
A beautifully restored 101-year-old piano has found a new home at the Neillsville American Legion Hall.
The Hobart M. Cable upright piano, built in the Chicago area in 1914, now proudly occupies a prominent spot in the Legion Hall banquet room. Accomplished piano player Sheri (Drescher) Malloch and Hilda Lipscy, both of Neillsville, sat down over a steak sandwich lunch at the Legion Hall last Wednesday to tell the piano’s story.
Years ago, Buddy and Larry Langreck purchased the piano at a sale and donated to the Eastern Star, which shared facilities with the Masonic Lodge in Neillsville. The organizations met in a historic two-story building in the downtown area.
At one point, the upstairs of the Masonic Lodge was shut down to save on heating costs. Then a decision was made to move into a new building, and an auction was held to sell much of the furniture and a spare piano.
The Hobart Cable piano was moved into the new Masonic Lodge building.
In 2004, the Masonic Lodge decided to close its Neillsville building and merge with the Merrillan Masonic Lodge. The former Masonic Lodge in Neillsville is now home to the Grotto.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Star merged with the group in Owen. That affiliation has now been moved to Marshfield.
As part of the transformation, the Masonic Lodge in Neillsville gave everything away, including the vintage piano. Margaret Knoop, who was the Eastern Star pianist, arranged to have the piano stored in a family garage.
Malloch said the piano was tucked away with the keyboard facing the wall. A tarp was snuggled around it to keep it safe and dry, as the piano awaited its next assignment.
Enter the group from the American Legion: Knoop and Lipscy contacted Wayne and Bonnie Short, who inspected the piano and deemed it good enough to revitalize.
Don Lipscy, Hilda’s husband, recently passed away. The family decided to have the funeral services at the Legion Hall, with special piano music set as priority for the full Marine ceremony.
Wheels for the piano refurbishing were set in motion full speed with two weeks to go before the funeral service. Short and other legion members moved the piano to Short’s garage. After a general cleaning, Short went to work with his woodworking skills.
After sanding the surface to the bare finish, Short applied three coats of stain and varnish, sanding again between each coat.
Paul Dickinson of Paul’s Piano Tuning Service of Neillsville was then contacted to get the piano up and running. It was two-day project to get the piano tuned and set up at the Legion Hall.
“Initially, I played a few notes and it sounded pretty good,” Dickinson said. “The piano had been idle for a long time.”
He said the piano was missing some ivory key tops. Coincidentally, Barb Petkovsek of Neillsville had contacted Dickinson several weeks before, asking if he wanted her damaged 1924 piano, which was deemed unsalvageable.
Dickinson said it has been illegal for many years to use ivory for piano keys. Various types of plastic are now the norm.
The ivory keys on the 1924 piano were a perfect match for the ones needed on the 1914 model.
Dickinson took the action piece out of the piano being restored. He replaced the string and fixed a few regulation issues with screws on the plate bolt. The felt inside the piano was in good condition. He checked the soundboard inside the piano, which was inscribed with “1967,” the last time the piano was tuned.
“This project was a lot of work, but it was really fun,” Dickinson said. “The Legion now has a really nice-sounding piano that has been brought back to life. On top if it all, the Legion folks were very appreciative and hospitable.”
Malloch, who paid the fee of $160 for the piano tuning, said it was a worthwhile donation for a number of reasons.
“Music is the universal language,” Malloch said. “Hilda wanted special music for Don’s funeral, and we couldn’t have it without a piano. Now the piano that was ignored and neglected has been restored and is now part of the treasure at the legion.”
Don Lipscy has a highly decorated service career in the Marines. He was a pilot, and he also loved music. One of the selections Malloch played at the funeral service was “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Malloch said the piano refurbishing project from start to finish took a little more than two weeks.
“We got everything done pretty fast,” Malloch said. “This is what two women do when they have to do something; they do it.”
Hilda thinks the piano is a great addition to the Legion Hall. “I’m glad it is here,” Hilda said. “I think the Legion really needed one.”
Many fond memories came back for Malloch the first time she played the refurbished piano at the Legion Hall.
“I felt just like I was at home,” Malloch said. “It is hard to describe the feeling. I just can’t live without a piano. When I get mad or need a friend, piano music is an equalizer and a balancer.”
Malloch started playing the piano at age 4. She played by ear for about three years, and then her parents said she could take lessons from Mrs. Ruedy, who was the wife of the Neillsville Elementary School Principal.
The family paid 75 cents per lesson until Malloch was through the seventh grade. She spread her wings, playing as a volunteer for Sunday services at the Neillsville, Granton and Pleasant Ridge Methodist churches. She also played for Neillsville High School and Neillsville Hospital functions.
“I guess they noticed I had something to contribute,” Malloch said. “It was like, wherever I went, if there was a piano available, I was going to play it.”
Malloch and her musical talents left the Neillsville area for a while. She worked for AT&T in the Kansas City area for 37 years. She returned to Neillsville in 2004. She continued to volunteer, playing piano at the nursing home, Methodist Church, and the Eastern Star. She also was involved with the 1897 Jail Museum, serving a term as president.
Her aunt, Irene Drescher, sold a piano and gave the bench to Malloch. The bench turned out to be part of the refurbishing project at the Legion Hall.
“I had to cut the balls off the legs to get the bench to fit under my piano at home,” Malloch said. “Wayne Short put the balls back on, and I decided to give the bench to the Legion to accompany the piano. I have a nice light cane chair that I use when I play my piano at home.”
Her donation is made in honor of her uncles, Don and Norman “Dutch” Drescher, both of whom served in the U. S. Army during WWII. Don made the piano bench Malloch donated to the Legion.
“Both Don and Dutch were sent overseas during WWII,” Malloch explained. “Dutch fought in the Normandy invasion. He said he never wanted to go back. Most of the men in Don’s division were killed in battle. He never really got over it.”
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