A baby grand gets to play another day at the Smithfield Senior Center

By Brittni Henderson

About a year before his passing, H. Elton Dexter shared a very interesting surprise with his family. The highly talented musician recorded himself singing and playing piano, compiling enough tunes to fill 14 CD’s. On the anniversary of his death in March a year later, Dexter’s son Brad said that he can listen to his dad’s beautiful music in the car any time he wants and feel that he’s still with him.

The Dexter family has had music in their veins for generations. Brad and his siblings Scott and Cheryl grew up playing piano at home every single day. Brad shares that each morning before breakfast the children would spend at least an hour practicing playing on their Mason and Hamlin baby grand piano. Their grandparents were part of the North Scituate Baptist Church choir— the same choir the family is still a part of today.

At the age of 12, H. Elton started playing in an Armenian musical group based in Providence. The band had a gig at a wedding in Troy, NY, and according to family legend, the members promised the parents of young H. Elton that he would be safe, so they granted him permission to travel with the band. He returned home with the $5 he made from the performance. In the 1930’s, this was pretty big chunk of change. H. Elton continued passionately playing piano for the rest of his life.

H. Elton played at numerous restaurants and directed the church choir. Shirley, his beloved wife of 70 years, would go to every performance. Shirley was also from a musical family. Brad shared that his mother was such a kind and thoughtful soul, as she would always support his father. She was known for her knack in remembering birthdays and holidays, and over the span of one year sent over 1,500 greeting cards to family members and loved ones!

After the passing of their parents just about two years apart, the Dexter family knew that they would have to get rid of the piano that had garnished so many memories over their lifetimes. Each of the children already had a piano in their homes, so they were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to find a new home for their father’s.

“People don’t play pianos like they used to,” Brad shared. “If we didn’t find a home for ours, it would end up in the bone yard.”

Luckily, after about three months of searching, the Dexters found a fantastic home for the 1902 Mason and Hamlin baby grand piano. Dot Mathurin, who is also a member at North Scituate Baptist Church, heard through the grapevine that the Dexter family was looking for a home for the piano.

“Brad’s father was an exceptional pianist, he was loved a lot!” says Mathurin. “It’s a very beautiful piano, and will be very much loved just as its owner was.”

Mathurin set up the pick up, as well as the tuning and polishing of the baby grand before it was moved to its new home at the Smithfield Senior Center. According to Mathurin, the Senior Center was in dyer need of a new piano, so it will be absolutely cherished. Brad says that his father would be overjoyed to know that its keys will continue to play under new fingertips.

“My dad always had the phrase, ‘Keep a song in your heart,’ on his business cards,” says Brad. “Hopefully there is a post office in heaven for my mother’s cards and a tuned-up piano for my father to play while she writes them!”