Sep. 3—Ruffy’s a Duke Ellington fan.
The rambunctious pup — a poodle, with out the flowery haircut — stopped what he was doing the opposite day and sidled over to his grasp, Leo Horacek, because the 103-year-old professor emeritus of music made his technique to the piano in his lounge.
When the professor started enjoying, Ruffy—himself about 9—perked up, then settled in for a pay attention.
“Caravan, ” was the tune: the Latin-tinged, huge band, toe-tapper made well-known by Ellington in 1936, when Horacek was a younger man again residence in Kansas earlier than the beginning of World Battle II.
Horacek took his time with the tune he performs daily, only for enjoyable.
His left hand hit the driving bass line, whereas his proper danced up and down, similar to the ripples on the Pacific Ocean, for the melody.
It is exhausting not take into consideration time in that lounge, in Hornacek’s snug home, within the Morgantown space.
There’s the century-plus-three age of the individual giving the impromptu live performance, for one factor.
There was that, plus a severe assortment of ornate clocks (most of which show totally different hours and minutes on their faces) lining the cabinets and partitions as much as space within the room with the piano, which is a surrogate workplace and studio, of types.
Time, unstuck and preserving its personal rhythms.
“Effectively, it type of goes like that, ” Horacek mentioned, at music’s finish.
“I am self-taught on piano. I in all probability make loads of errors — I do know I make loads of errors — however I take pleasure in it.”
Life is what he additionally enjoys, regardless of enduring the lack of outliving one in all his sons, two wives and all of his speedy members of the family again residence.
“I ought to in all probability be useless at present, however for some motive, I am not, ” he mentioned.
“I in all probability ought to have died then, however right here I’m, 103.”
No melancholy right here, nevertheless. He gave a bit chuckle, as he voiced the above.
Tales of warfare and peace When he mentioned, “I in all probability ought to have died then, ” he was referring to World Battle II, the place, in his early 20s, he confronted dying with regularity as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot.
He flew a number of fight missions in Europe and Japan and was shot down twice — over the Pacific after one skirmish — and in full view of the weapons that discovered their mark.
Amazingly, he downplays having to ditch his closely broken Hellcat fighter aircraft in enemy waters.
Horacek nursed the craft to an space the place he knew an American sub was lurking slightly below the floor, for simply such a rescue.
“We have been educated very well, ” mentioned the pilot-professor, who wore the bars of lieutenant when he got here residence from the combating.
Must you wish to thank him for his service, or make observe of his membership within the Biggest Era, he’ll thanks in return — whereas persevering with to politely downplay his contributions.
“I am unsure anybody needs to listen to my ‘warfare tales, ‘ ” he mentioned.
“And our era was simply doing what we have been known as to do. It was our job.”
Which is what this story is actually about, within the hours and minutes earlier than Labor Day: Jobs, and callings, even.
Like loads of returning vets armed with the G.I. Invoice, Horacek was a younger man in a rush when he landed in music school rooms on the College of Kansas after the warfare.
A bachelor’s diploma was the opening act for a grasp’s, till his doctorate sang the aria.
Horacek labored quick, incomes his doctorate in trumpet research there in 1955, after educating in elementary faculties and small faculties in his residence state alongside the tutorial method.
He did not care when you have been a kindergartener scratching out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, ” on violin — or a fledgling group school orchestra battening it down for Beethoven’s fifth Symphony.
Both method, was going that can assist you — gently — obtain the total technical and emotional measures of the efficiency.
“I am unsure if I used to be all that gifted, ” he mentioned, “however I actually loved the educating points of music, ” mentioned Horacek, who joined WVU’s high quality arts school in 1960.
Ruffy requires a break Horacek retired from the varsity in Morgantown in 1981, however he by no means stopped working.
He gave personal classes in trumpet, earlier than turning to WVU’s Osher Lifelong Studying Institute, the place he taught music seminar-type programs for senior residents and others on all the pieces from Bach to bebop.
The group gave him a standing ovation three years in the past after he taught his closing OLLI course on the age of 100.
Not that music professors ever actually retire. On daily basis, he research trumpet scores and performs his piano. His mind wants the toil, he mentioned.
“Effectively, I am nonetheless right here, so I have to nonetheless have a goal, ” he mentioned. “Huh, Ruffy. Is that it ?”
The pooch by then had moved on from the Caravan. He retrieved a squeaky toy and dropped it at his grasp’s toes, fixing the professor with a gradual look.
You realize, you do not have to work on a regular basis, his wagging tail was saying.