HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - The torment of dementia is a harsh reality for so many families across Hampton Roads.
Virginia Beach woman Pat Pearse, 91, is living with dementia, but still plays the piano at her senior living facility daily. Her music helps her and the others around her.
“She has played the piano since she was a little girl and that’s what made my dad kind of fall in love with her,” said Cathryn Pearse Snyders, Pat’s daughter.
Pat had a love affair with George Pearse that started when she was 15 years old. The two fell in love, married and had four kids.
Snyders said Pat and George bonded over music, and "Fly Me to the Moon" was their favorite song. George would constantly request for Pat to play songs on the piano.
“It takes her back in her mind to her times with my father when she plays the music of her era,” Snyders said.
Tragically, Snyders said George was one of the first people to die of COVID-19 in the region back when the pandemic first hit.
“We weren’t able to see him and that was the worst part, not being able to say goodbye,” Snyders said.
Now Pat plays the piano daily at the Bickford of Virginia Beach assisted living facility.
“You can see everyone’s eyes sparkle and their hands start moving and dancing around, it makes me happy. I think it makes her happy and I think it makes my dad happy,” Snyders said.
Pat used to play on a different piano at the facility, but then the owner of the piano passed away suddenly and the piano was given away.
Snyders said she began a search for a new set of keys on social media.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of offers that I had for pianos,” Snyders said.
She said the community response was overwhelming and a baby grand piano was recently donated to Bickford of Virginia Beach.
“There is huge power in music and community, and my community came together and donated this beautiful piano just for my mother. Even though she has dementia, she can still make music and make those memories,” Snyders said.