By Elaine Omann
Entering the Mayo Clinic Hospital through the doors of the Cannady Building, you may hear piano music — and sitting at that beautiful baby grand piano could be 93-year-old Joe Connolly, who volunteers. He still drives himself to volunteer and has a special parking place.
Connolly came to Jacksonville from Detroit when CSX moved him here in 1980; he worked for the railroad until he retired. He was married for more than 30 years and is also an accomplished runner.
People in scrubs walk by him and wave. Those who sit, waiting, listen as he continues to play music.
1.How do you share your music and life with others?
I play here and other places. Those who enter here often have heavy hearts and I want my music to give them relief. I often ask people what they want to hear and I play that.
2. What is your favorite song to play?
I like “Funny Valentine” and “Clair de Lune.” I like the sad songs … they are the best to play. People most often ask for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Sentimental Journey.” I carry this notebook with songs I know and can play.
3. Why do you like this particular piano? What other instruments do you play and when did you become a musician?
I was in World War II as part of the 745th Army-Air Force Band. I went in as a musician and never did basic, or overseas duty, or combat. I played saxophone. I learned music from my mother and know music by ear. I am a Gold Card member of the American Federation of Musicians. There is no piano better than this Yamaha baby grand. I also played saxophone and anything with a reed. I once played in big dance bands.
4. Could you talk more about yourself as an athlete?
A lady made this scrapbook for me and shows the races I have done — more than 1,000 races. I once had a heart attack at the end of the Hart Bridge and I went back to that spot later and stomped on it with my feet and kept on running. I also played baseball in my hometown and then for the Braves in Boston. I played at Fenway with the Green Monster.
5. What is your next goal or ambition?
I have a big ego. I do this and I do that, and I am not humble. I plan to live to be a 100.
Photo by Elaine Omann