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There are 88 keys on a standard piano. That’s nearly how old Charles McCreary is. At age 87, Chuck moved to Walker Place in the summer of 2019. Since then, he has become our resident ivory keys specialist.

The piano in Walker Place is situated on the ground floor, so the sound of his keys float upwards and fill the lobby and dining area with music. Residents have grown accustomed to hearing Chuck play classics they know and love.

Chuck started taking lessons when he was seven years old on the family’s piano his grandfather bought in 1920. As he sat at the lobby piano, we asked him to tell us about where his music lead him in life (or vice versa).

His hands stilled over the keys, and he began his story.


I think the other people in the community really like it...


They tell me that all the time.

Chuck McCreary

A Life Informed by Music

In his short six months here, Chuck has already influenced the Walker community through his music. But for Chuck, music is a way to connect with others in the community.

“I think the other people in the community really like it because they're the same age that I am. I'm 88, and I'm playing the songs I loved when I was 20 years old. They were 20 years old at the same time I was. We have a great thing in common. They tell me that all the time.” 

Chuck often talks of the people in his life who helped him realize his passion for music. He gives them the credit for keeping his practice at the center of his life. 

“I've had three great music teachers in my life. My piano teacher. My orchestra teacher in high school, Dana Carnal, who taught me to play the bass fiddle. And then Fred Schrader, another music teacher in high school. I remember them. I think they had more influence on me than anything or anyone else.”


So did Chuck follow the footsteps of his musical inspirations and teachers? Quite the contrary.

“I had this idea I wanted to be a doctor and help people. So I did that. I call myself the poor man's Albert Schweitzer. He also was a great musician and then he went off to Africa. He became a doctor and spent his life that way. Well, I kind of think I did some of that too. I did a lot of medical work in India, but I was also a musician, and that's what I really enjoyed. Although I had a good time being a doctor too.”

I'm 88, and I'm playing the songs I loved when I was 20 years old.

Practicing Medicine in India

Like many other members in our community, Chuck spent his younger years outside of the United States.

"I was a family practice doctor. I think the most interesting years of my life is when I spent five years doing medical work in India for the Lutheran Church. I've been living around the world for 87 years, and those five years of my life in India were the best.

"I was doing medical work in the Malabar Region of India, which is a Muslim area of India. India is Hindu, and this was a group of several million Muslims who couldn't leave for Pakistan when they had this separation where Pakistan split off. And so there they were. My church started a clinic and hired some Indian doctors. And then in order to get some funding, they had to have an American doctor.

“I always had wanted to do some medical work overseas, ever since I was in high school. It was my goal. I made it there and it turned out very well. It was all about tuberculosis in those days. We got an X-Ray machine going and we treated a lot of TB.

The decision to come back to the United States

"We got there in 1962 and we stayed until 1967. My wife and I, we had two little kids, ages one and two when we arrived, and we had two more kids who were born there. So we came home with four kids.

“Today I'm told that tuberculosis is relatively rare in India. Something happened in the environment. Tuberculosis is a contagious disease, but it's also dependent upon nutrition and living conditions and people being crowded together and all those things. A lot of that all changed at once, I think, for the good in India.

"Once you've lived in India for a while, that's who you are. You'll never get that out of your skin. I was planning to become an Indian citizen actually. I loved it so much there. But I realized with our four kids, I didn't want to commit them to a whole life in India just because I was having a good time. But for certain, it gets in your blood.”


A Familiar Place and Neighborhood

So how do you choose a new home after decades in another? It’s something all our residents and their families handle when the timing is right.

For Chuck, moving to Walker Place was about proximity, familiarity, and an inside point of view.

He explains, “I lived about five blocks to the east of here on Harriet Avenue, between 37th and 38th Street. I was there for about 38 years, so I've been in the neighborhood for a long time. I walked around this building, I know this street, I know this neighborhood. When I’d go for a walk everyday, I'd walk around Walker Methodist and I thought, this is a pretty neat looking place just from walking past it, which I had been doing for several years before I finally came in one day.  And I did have a dear friend who was here who I visited.”

So what does he like about living at Place?

"Well, it's hard to say. I just know that people here are … good people. I knew this was a very welcoming place and it’s the people, the food service, the people who run the cafeteria and who wait on you, they just pamper us. And they have a regular special menu, their main meal every evening, but if you want something different, they'll do it. They'll get it or they'll change the stuff around for you. It's really nice.”

We really make friends through songs that we all loved when we were young.

Chuck McCreary

Making Friends Through Songs

For Chuck, one of the most valuable offerings at Place is a community of friends.

“I’ve made good friends here. None of us can remember all our names as well as we would like to, but we are very good friends and sometimes we can remember our names, too!"

“Friendship at my age, now that's something that just happens. I have been very happy here with people, and they've been very nice to me. They listen to me play the piano and then they’ll say that it was my favorite song. Once a guy came up to me after I played All The Things You Are by Jerome Kern (lyrics by Hammerstein). He said, 'That's the greatest love song ever written.' And I thought about it and I said, 'I think you're right.' So anyway, we really make friends through songs that we all loved when we were young and I'm bringing them back.”


The Feeling of Being Home  

A lot changes in a person's life as they transition into senior living; and yet, so much can stay the same. Rituals, hobbies, and traditions don't just go away when someone moves into a senior community. In fact, we encourage our community members to engage in their interests, and we're intentional in connecting people with others who share those same passions.

So we asked Chuck, what would you tell other people who are worried about losing themselves after they transition to senior living?

“I'm 88 years old, so it was time for me to come over here. But, it's been a very great pleasure to be here."

It's nice to see the city, and it's nice to come home

"There's room to do a lot of things here. We go on a lot of trips. I was on a trip this morning. We went down to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and spent the morning there. We go around to different things. About once every two weeks we have a bus that takes us for rides to different places like that.

"The staff here is really knowledgeable about what's interesting in the culture of the Twin Cities and makes it accessible for people. All we have to do is just show up in a bus from Walker. And they really do well at that. I'm just amazed at all the fun we have doing it. And we're all riding the bus then. And we don't act silly like little kids, but I think we feel that way in our heads anyway. We're very happy.

Retirement? More like adventure. Learn more about Walker Methodist Place.

“Walker Methodist makes me feel like I'm home. When I go out with my kids, while I like to go to their houses and visit them, I'm somewhat at home there too, but I'm not leaving home when they bring me back here. This is my home. They, my son or one of my daughters, they drive me, and they come in with me and walk up to my room. I think it’s because they wish to see how things are and making sure I'm keeping it all neat and clean. But truly, I feel like I'm home when I get here, and the people are just really sweet. When you need some help or something, they're right there. And I just feel very relaxed. I don't have anything to worry about.” 

Now that is just music to all of our ears.

Where Charles Lives

Walker Place

3701 Bryant Ave S., Minneapolis, 55409
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