COPLEY TWP.: The strains of Fly Me to the Moon could be heard up and down the hallways where family members and friends held vigil with their dying loved ones.
Patrick Munford played the tune on his tenor saxophone in the Great Room at Akron General’s Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service Justin T. Rogers Care Center in Copley Township.
One of those captivated by the music on a recent day was Tookie Mullen, 75, of Wadsworth. Mullen’s mother, Margaret Engle, 96, of Akron, had been a patient for a week.
“I walked by and I got that spring in my step and I needed that,” she said as the family struggled with the then imminent loss.
“[It] really brought a smile to my face and a little bit of joy,” Mullen said.
Her mother died last week.
Every Wednesday morning for the past six months, 70-year-old Munford, who worked a half century in the criminal justice system, has set up shop at the hospice and played for patients and their families for a few hours.
“The body may be deteriorating, but the spirit and soul are still there,” said Mullen, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam.
He plays his saxophone to backup music provided by a CD player.
For the past five years since his retirement from the Summit County Juvenile Court, he has shared his talents at nursing homes and elsewhere in town.
“I wanted to do something to give back a little,” Munford said.
Tracey Nauer, director of hospice and palliative care at AGMC, said Munford is one of several musicians who regularly volunteer to provide music.
“It’s almost indescribable how comforting it is to patients,” Nauer said. “It sets the tone for relaxation, even for the staff, to help them put everything into perspective.”
Along with the musicians, about 120 people regularly volunteer at the Ridgewood Road facility that can care for up to 26 patients.
Nauer said some volunteers sit with patients, others offer families respite, some cook and others do a myriad of other things.
“I don’t think there is anything better than music,” said Lee Weisenmiller, whose husband, Richard Weisenmiller, was a patient.
She would sit on a sofa and listen as Munford played.
“It is soothing,” she said.
Glenn Brown of Copley Township listened to the music as he was spending time with his father, Sellers Brown, 97, who had been a patient at the hospice.
“It is fantastic,” he said. “Music is the universal language.”
Munford said people have told him that their loved ones, who had been struggling for months, smiled when they heard his saxophone music.
“It takes the pain and a measure of trouble away from them,” Munford said.
As Munford played Fly Me to the Moon on a recent day, Dorothea Clarke, 61, a cook at the hospice, walked into the room and started singing the words.
“Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars,” she sang.
To have this type of atmosphere in the hospice, “relaxes everybody,” Clarke said. “It make them peaceful. It makes them harmonious. It works the spirit.”
After all, she said as Munford continued to play in the background, “we only have one life.”
To contact Munford, call 330-564-5639.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.