Family was the main draw for Stan Stewart when he moved to Touchmark. “I wanted to live closer to my son,” he says. When he and his son first visited Touchmark, he was impressed with the different levels of care available.
“It seemed like a good fit.” Once settled, he quickly grew to appreciate the community of people seeking social connection, something lacking where he had previously lived. “There, the residents had all grown up together, attended the same high school, and spent their whole lives there. It was hard. I have a lot more friends at Touchmark. The people here are more likely to make friends.”
Stan and his son Christopher, who plays flute, guitar, and piano, share a deep love of music, and the father and son attracted a large audience when they played in the Touchmark lobby. “The place was packed!”
Music was the path to a new friendship with Harry Kramer, who heard Stan singing, and the two men started talking about music. Harry, who started piano lessons at age 5 and has played keyboards for 30 years, says he’s impressed with the quality and range of Stan’s voice.
“I often accompanied my wife when we played at dances. She was a big hit when she played an electric bass guitar. She got the standing ovations, and I got all the sitting ovations,” Harry jokes.
Stan enjoys Harry’s sense of humor and says it’s better to perform with him than alone. The two now regularly play together, often treating residents to lively, toe-tapping performances.
Generations of music
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Stan says his love of music grew from deep roots. His greatgrandfather played the fife in the Civil War. His grandfather played the flute. His father was in the military, so the family moved around a lot before settling in Modesto, California. “I learned how to play the guitar in college, but my true instrument is my voice.”
“I communicate with people through music,” he says, adding that he characterizes his music as more of an avocation than a full-time job. After studying economics at the University of California at Davis, Stan pursued a career in business that included insurance and estate planning, much of that time in Modesto.
The road to performing in public started when he played some chords on a guitar at the insurance office where he worked. A coworker invited him to his house for band practice, and the other musicians asked him to sing with them for an Open Mic night.
“The next night I was the lead singer for a band.”
Stan says there are two kinds of music: country and western. “If it doesn’t tell a good story, I’m not interested in it.”
He often opened his shows with the Johnny Cash signature song Folsom Prison Blues. Stan croons the opening lines: “I hear the train a comin’. It’s rollin’ ‘round the bend. And I ain’t seen the sunshine since, I don’t know when.”
Travel time to gigs with bandmates was often spent singing so they were warmed up by the time they arrived. “Once we were done performing, we walked off the stage and divvied up the money.”
After entertaining for 10 years in Modesto, Stan now is part of a duet, having formed a friendship through a shared love of music. “Harry is very talented and knows many of the songs I like to sing. He’s got the talent, and I just sing along,”
Harry credits Stan with reviving his love of playing. Dealing with the grief of losing his wife of nearly 60 years was “the most horrible time.” He says the community of friends at Touchmark helped him to embrace the idea that “life is for the living.”
Today, Stan and Harry take pleasure sharing their musical talents with each other—and spreading the joy of music to others.