The Lady at the Piano
Every Tuesday morning at a quiet veterans hospital in Portland, the daughter of a World War II airman dons an old Army uniform for a throwback performance like no other.
They get around with canes and prosthetics. Some are bound to wheelchairs, oxygen tanks in tow. Those who carry these reminders of aging and affliction seem to be the ones most drawn to the woman at the dusty grand piano, her nimble fingers striking notes that stoke nostalgia in the lobby of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
The olive drab of Judy Gascon’s throwback Army service uniform nearly matches the dull brown of the old grand. Her makeup and long, golden hair —mostly white now — are carefully done up in the style of the Andrews Sisters, a popular singing group during World War II. At sixty-six, she has kind eyes and a warm smile that underscore an air of graceful beauty for which the old-timers often swoon.
For more than ten years, Gascon has volunteered once a week at the hospital, lending her musical talent from about nine a.m. to two p.m. The meticulous detail of her vintage look requires at least two hours of preparation for which she wakes at 5:30 eve…