February 5, 2010

USA: 105-year-old retirement-home resident can still sing

. CHICAGO, Illinois / The Chicago Tribune / Living / Happy News / February 5, 2010 By John Carpenter, Special to the Tribune Mostly nowadays she hums, occasionally remembering a few words in German. But her neighbors, to a person, still love Lillian Krockerberger's singing. "Oh, what a beautiful soprano!" said Alice Karel, 83. "Just beautiful." "We hear her singing to herself, and she sings for us at parties," said Fran Pelegrino, an administrator at Concord Place Retirement and Assisted Living Community, where Krockerberger lives. Lillian Krockerberger celebrates her 105th birthday this week at a party at Concord Place, where Krockerberger lives. (Family photo) She doesn't sing at as many parties as she did when she arrived at Concord Place 20 years ago, Pelegrino said. After all, she was only 85 then. Lilly Krockerberger turned 105 this week. An oxygen tube is wrapped around her head now, helping her breathe. That means her voice isn't what it used to be. But when she offers a few words of "Edelweiss," it's easy to hear that it used to be something. The high soprano has a soft but rich sound, and is on key. From her 12th-floor room at Concord Place, which was once a hotel familiar to thousands of commuters at the junction of Interstate Highways 294 and 290, Krockerberger can look out at the Chicago skyline to the east. It is nothing like when she came to the U.S., in 1921. Born in Germany, Krockerberger lost her mother when she was a child. Her father remarried, but his new wife "was not a nice lady," Pelegrino said. When Krockerberger's father died, Krockerberger moved to Chicago, where relatives took her in. She worked for a wealthy family, whose son had his eye on her. "He wanted to marry her," Pelegrino said, "but she was having none of it." "It was there I met Carl," she said, smiling. The two married after a courtship and moved to west suburban Wood Dale, where he worked as a baker. Carl Krockerberger also played the piano, and the couple often performed in public, mostly in churches. Carl Krockerberger died in 1971, and their two children died, in 1987 and 1991, according to her grandson Carl Krockerberger, 52, of Indianapolis. She is survived by seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, the grandson said. "She does all right, considering," he said. Pelegrino described her as "the mother of this place." Chatting with her many friends, it's easy to see why. "I came here 19 years ago and I was crying," said Yvonne Nummer, 73. "She came up and said to me: 'Don't worry. I'm going to take care of you. You'll be my sister.' She's been wonderful to me." Lillian Krockerberger greeted friends and family with smiles at a recent party for her. Though it was clear she couldn't hear many people as they came up to wish her well, she nodded and smiled. After a round of "Happy Birthday," Pelegrino asked Krockerberger to sing. With the help of a microphone, her version of "Edelweiss" brought the room to a hush. Then Pelegrino asked her to sing "Carl's song." She sang a verse in German, then stopped. As the band started playing again, she was asked what the name of the song was. "At my age," she said. "You don't remember everything. I have it here." She pointed to her heart. "I know it, but I don't remember. I don't have the words." She does still have the voice, though. [rc] Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune