100-year-old piano player captivates S.C. nursing home residents

At a Columbia, S.C., nursing home, a 100-year-old woman has been putting on impromptu piano shows for the residents living there.

You wouldn't know it to look at her, and you couldn't tell by hearing her play. But Rosalind Gardner is 100 years and 8 months young.

"In a nutshell, yes, she is one tough cookie," her daughter, Rosalind Funk, told CBS Affiliate WLTX correspondent Dakarai Turner.

Gardner has been captivating audiences with her music skills since she was 7, and is still doing so.

Funk enjoys listening to her mother play the piano, as does Gardner's grandson, Charles Funk. "First of all, it's amazing that she remembers music to be so familiar in her age."

The draw of her music attracts many of the residents and staff at Columbia's Life Care Center, where she lives.

"Most of the time when I come in and I hear her playing, I'll stop, stand there, and listen to her play," said Christine Lykes, a nurse at the facility. "It brings a smile on my face."

Rosalind has been playing without sheet music, letting only her mind guide her hands across the keyboard the same way her whole life.

"I heard on TV and I'd copy that, just listening to it, and so everything I play is by ear," she told Turner.

But after a fall (which caused her mobility issues), and memory loss that has recently started running its course, her grandson says the sound of that music has taken a turn.

"Yeah, I can hear a difference between when she was 80 years old, you know, and that's just probably the mind at 100-plus," he said.

But it was before those notes began changing, that the music she made with her husband and three daughters gave her so much joy. That's when they traveled to the VA hospital during the 1940s and '50s, something Gardner loved so much that she only stopped playing for cancer patients at Palmetto Richland Hospital last year.

She brought music to the ears of the patients there after beating breast cancer herself 20 years ago.

"It's so ingrained as part of who she is, and it's her way of expressing herself," said Rosalind Funk.

Even after her husband died in 1959, following 19 years of marriage, she never stopped playing.

Now crowds gather at the nursing home each time she sits at the piano.

So maybe the music isn't changing after all. Like Rosalind, it only seems to be getting better with age.