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.

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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


Joe Connolly

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