GREENVILLE — Rosemary Zell just felt like she wasn’t playing piano like she once did, so her family members have made arrangements for a spring concert to feature the matriarch of the family at 2 p.m. April 10 at First Presbyterian Church, 114 E. 4th St., Greenville.
“I just want to play music for people,” she told her younger daughter Debb Summers, one day.
And, that was all it took.
Summers lined up the venue and made the arrangements for the concert, and her mother is getting excited.
Summers plans to make the introduction on the day of the concert, while her mother and sister, Teresa Unthank, will be in another room to make their way to the “stage.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Zell. “I haven’t played classical music for five or six years, but I’m practicing now. My fingers are always in command these days, but don’t always do what I command them to do.”
When she performs, Zell said she goes from one song to another.
“I will start with three classics, then do two of my own arrangements, then religious songs, two particularly important to me, ‘I’m Feeling Fine’ and “I Will Leave It All Behind,’ then I will go back to classic, some ragtime, then ’40s and ’50s music, and I will wind it up with a patriotic song and ‘God Bless America.’ The reason I did this was to spread it out.”
Zell grew up in West Alexandria and graduated in 1960 from West Alexandria High School, which is now known as Twin Valley South since it merged with Lanier School.
She and her future husband, Jerry, were engaged as juniors in high school, after having met at an FFA/FHA dance.
The couple, after graduation then attended Graceville Bible College in Florida, where they resided for 10 years and he pastored his first church.
They moved to Greenville in 1975, where he pastored at Greenville Baptist Temple and later at Cornerstone Baptist Church at Riffle and Pine.
As a pastor’s wife, she played piano at the churches.
What was it like being a minister’s wife?
“It had its downfalls and sad times, but, all in all, it was a happy time,” she said. “We lived around Castine on our daughter’s farm.”
Her husband was Pastor Jerry Zell. He died in 2010, a few months before what would have been their 5oth wedding anniversary.
Rosemary now lives at Treaty Manor in Greenville and is happy there.
“I’m by myself with plenty to do,” she said. “I have another sideline now. I opened my mother’s things that were in boxes and found three generations of pictures of my dad’s and mom’s side and knew them all. I didn’t like school, but I love to write. It was a privilege to have all the pictures of my ancestors. Now I’m very busy very happy and the family is helpful.”
Her grandchildren are John Unthank, who is getting married this year, and he with brother Jake run the family farms. Then, there is Brittany Unthank, a nurse at James Cancer Center in Columbus; Dalton Summers, who lives in Columbus and attending culinary school; and Kate Summers, a student at Wright State University.
When Rosemary’s not practicing her music, she is writing the family history through stories she is penning from her own memories. She also walks around Treaty Manor indoors three miles a day.
“And, I’m a college basketball freak,” she said. “I love it.”
She still meets with her high school friends once a month at Frisch’s in Eaton. She also spends a lot of time in West Alexandria, which she said is home to her.
Rosemary, who has taught private piano and organ lessons in homes in the past, now plays piano at Heartland Nursing Home of Greenville, at Rest Haven in Greenville and at VanCress in Eaton.
She said she started playing piano when she was 5.
“I learned how to play from a little old lady in Dayton, and then another old lady who came to our home and then I went to three more schools in Dayton,” she said. “I didn’t want to play but Dad knew I had the talent and made me stick with it.”
She has played the organ and likes organ music, but would rather play piano.
“I don’t like the organ that well,” she said. “It doesn’t have the same touch and the fingering is different.”
The family has sent some invitations out to family and her school friends from Preble County to her upcoming concert, but also invites the local public.
“I want my family to be proud of me,” said Rosemary, who will turn 74 on Aug. 7.
She said she will rehearse at the First Presbyterian Church before the actual performance to get a feel for the piano there.
A reception will follow her performance on April 10.
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