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Music key to long life for 91-year-old Hillsboro woman

Rubena Suderman will celebrate her 91st birthday on March 26, and she says three things have made it possible to live that long: being an optimist, trusting the Lord, and making music her life.

Suderman has been musically involved at Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church of rural Hillsboro since 1946, having played piano for 17 years and organ for 53, keeping her skills sharp and never falling flat.

However, the first time she ever practiced her skill was not on an actual piano.

“I had my first eight lessons on a piece of cardboard,” Suderman said. “I took lessons from a neighbor lady for 25 cents a lesson.”

Growing up during the Great Depression, Suderman wished to learn the art of music, but there were obstacles in the way.

“I had the deepest desire to learn piano,” Suderman said, “but we couldn’t afford (to get one).”

Suderman started practicing in 7th grade, but it was her piano teacher in high school who was a huge inspiration for her in her musical journey.

“I had the most wonderful teacher, Miss Sharp,” Suderman said. “She saw something in me and she made me play, play, play!”

Once Suderman hit the second half of her freshman year, she was already competing in solo contests and playing for the girls’ glee club, choir, and church.

After graduating from high school, Suderman attended Tabor College, where she played for voice lessons and the college choir under the direction of Herbert Richert.

She married Leslie Suderman on April 18, 1946, and she said that once they were married, she bought herself a piano.

After her marriage was the first time she started playing piano for Ebenfeld.

“The first time I walked into (Ebenfeld), they asked me whether I would play for the choir practice because the pianist wasn’t there,” Suderman said, “so I sight-read the whole thing.”

She has been playing music at Ebenfeld ever since.

Suderman also taught piano lessons for many years, having as many as 25 students at one time and a recital every year.

As for signs of slowing down once she reaches 91, Suderman is not showing any.

“I have a grand piano in my home that I play almost every day,” Suderman said. “Music is my life.”

Last modified March 18, 2016

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