“I’ve been affiliated with Pioneer for a very long time,” said Carol Andstrom, who recently moved into PioneerCare Center. Carol and her mother Dorothy were always well known in musical circles, especially at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and PioneerCare in Fergus Falls. Carol and Dorothy lent their piano and organ talents playing for church services, weddings, funerals, and many special events and dedications at Pioneer.
“Music has always been in my blood,” said Carol, “and I guess I began taking piano lessons when I was five. I took lessons for 13 years from Mrs. Hazel Van Dyk. I remember she used to tell me if I played something perfectly three times in a row, I had ‘Oscared it!’ People in Fergus Falls will likely remember Mrs. Van Dyk’s family as her husband was the City’s park superintendent for many years.” Carol also took lessons from Shirley Sevig, whose husband was pastor at Zion Lutheran Church.
Carol’s mother Dorothy was her organ instructor. “I remember the first time I played the organ for an event, my mother told me we had two places where we needed an accompanist. Mother told me I could either play for someone to sing or I could play for a funeral. I chose the funeral and I remember it being held at the old Augustana Lutheran Church downtown, which is now the Augustana Apartments. That was back in 1956.”
Photo: Dorothy and Carol Andstrom at the piano together in PioneerCare’s chapel in 1971.
Carol and Dorothy played both piano and organ for Pioneer beginning in the early 1980’s when pastor Lauren Youngdale was Chaplain. “Mother played at Pioneer when pastor Harry Olson was Chaplain, too,” she said, “and I have played alongside five different Pioneer Chaplains over the years.”
“In 1986, they had a dedication to the parlor lobby at Pioneer Home,” explained Carol. “I remember it well. I sang ‘Bless This House’ and Mother accompanied me. In 1987, there was a dedication of the chapel piano. Mother and I played a piano and organ duet. We used to play so many lovely duets together. Another event was the dedication of the social room and an electronic organ in 1989, and once again Mother and I teamed up to play the organ and piano prelude.”
The next event Carol recalled was the dedication of the grand piano. “The musical dedication of this piano was dedicated to my mother, Dorothy,” she said. “It was a lovely tribute to her, to all the things she did at Pioneer. It was such a rewarding experience to be a part of that.”
Carol remembers a life filled with music. “I played at Bethlehem Lutheran Church for more than 30 years,” she remembered. “I know I taught piano lessons to over 50 students. You might recognize some of those names, like Steve Guttormson and Nathan Johnson from Pioneer! I played at Sunday services at Pioneer and for countless special events. My mother and I so enjoyed playing for the residents over the years!”
Even though Carol is a very accomplished musician, she recalled a couple of musical blunders that still make her chuckle. “I was playing for a service Pastor Harry was in charge of,” she recalled, “and we had a little keyboard at the Homestead Cottage. Pastor Harry wanted me to both play and sing The Lord’s Prayer and I accidently hit the rhythmic selection on the keyboard! It was a very different rendition of the piece, but I finished it anyway! And on the topic of The Lord’s Prayer, I sang that at a funeral once and just plain forgot the words! I remember singing the same words over and over!”
Carol looks back on her life and hears music. “Music has definitely been my life,” she recalled, “as I was part of a very musical family. All the things Mother and I were able play for together is definitely a highlight. It was especially hard after Mother passed away. We had done everything together, including living together for all those years. Those are precious memories!”
Carol hopes to continue playing for the residents at PioneerCare, the Cottages, and Pioneer Pointe as she is able. “I’ve enjoyed playing for the people at Pioneer so very much over the years!”
Carol’s mother Dorothy became a resident of PioneerCare when she was 85. Carol only recently became a resident, too. “I just celebrated my 81st birthday and I felt so good going to live at PioneerCare,” said Carol, “because it felt like home. I’ve been acquainted with Pioneer for so many years and I’ve appreciated what they do so much.”