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Meet Your Neighbors: Longtime pianist finds key to happiness in helping others

October 10th, 2011 11:05 am by Rex Barber

Anyone who knows Ann O’Quinn knows about the meals she cooks and delivers to comfort friends, the piano music she plays for the enjoyment of those in long-term care, the cards and flowers she arranges for special occasions and the energy she pours into church committees.
“I just enjoy serving other people,” O’Quinn said in a recent interview from her living room.
One of her friends said O’Quinn makes everyone with whom she comes into contact feel special.
O’Quinn attended Queens College, now Queens University of Charlotte, where the motto was, “Not to be served but to serve.” She thought that mantra had been ingrained in her.
Though she was here briefly in the 1960s, O’Quinn has been living in Johnson City since 1980, when her husband was located here permanently by General Shale Brick. She married her husband in 1961; the couple have just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Born in Spartanburg, S.C., O’Quinn has lived all over the country with her husband, including Alabama, New Jersey and Texas.
She was a professional piano teacher for 45 years, instructing scores of students from her home and also at Tri-Cities Christian Schools.
“It was wonderful,” O’Quinn said of teaching piano. “I thought it was more important they (students) develop a love and appreciation of music.”
“I started playing music when I was four years old,” O’Quinn said. “It’s a god-given gift, not something I had learned up until that point.”
Her piano students still show up on her doorstep to this day to show off their families or to take her out to lunch.
“I still play the piano,” she said. “After retirement I extended my mission into nursing homes and extended living homes.”
She has played in area nursing homes, including Broadmoor Assisted Living, Colonial Hills Retirement Center and others, since the early 1990s. She said she learns a lot from the people there, who seem to enjoy her regular appearances.
“Oh they love it, because I go back and do the music they grew up with,” O’Quinn said. “They seem to really appreciate hearing music from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s.”
It is not only music she plays. O’Quinn also tries to do special things for the senior citizens in the places she visits. One time she arranged a fashion show using items from a local clothier.
“People that age sometimes get swept under the rug and I think it’s important they have special things in their lives they enjoy and can identify with,” O’Quinn said.
At Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church she is on the bereavement committee, the care committee that visits home-bound people and she sings in the choir. Her pianist skills also are employed for weddings, church events and funerals.
Her role on the care committee sees her visiting many older Johnson Citians who can no longer leave their homes, for one reason or another.
“And that’s a joy because they love so much seeing people,” O’Quinn said.
Another of O’Quinn’s efforts that is not a duty for a committee is preparing and delivering “delicious” dishes for sick and mourning friends, one of her acquaintances said.
“I love to feed people,” O’Quinn said. “I usually take some vegetables and a meat or maybe a dessert and a salad.”
O’Quinn is rather modest, not desiring to speak too much about what she considers a large part of being a friend.
“I think it’s important to help people out when they’re down,” O’Quinn said. “I just do better when I’m helping somebody out.”

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