SENIORS: Shore Hill resident taught herself to play piano

September 4, 2012 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Sylvia Burgess Cooper said she enjoys nothing more than a good laugh.” Life is full of fun.

Sometimes, I wish I was a little more serious, but I can’t be,” said the 83-year-old resident of Shore Hill, the housing complex for senior citizens at 9000 Shore Road.

Burgess Cooper, a retired hospital worker, not only lives at Shore Hill, she also volunteers her time Seniors In Touch, a program for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients that is housed in the building. A self-taught musician, she plays the piano for her fellow seniors and likes to sit and talk to them.

“It’s nice to be able to help people feel better,” Burgess Cooper said.

She did the same thing when she worked as a dietary aide at Kings County Hospital, delivering trays of food to patients. “I used to bring them their food and try to make them smile,” she recalled.

Burgess Cooper was born in 1927 in Bedford-Stuyvesant. She attended P.S. 3 . When she was just six years old, she saw a piano in her aunt’s house and began a life-long love of music. She taught herself how to play, one note at a time. “I play by ear, mostly,” she said. In later years, she would learn how to play the accordion and “a little bit of guitar.”

She attended the High School for the Women’s Garment Trade on Dean Street. “I didn’t learn the garment trade. I learned cooking in school,” she said.

Her favorite food to make is coconut bread.

After high school, “I fell in love and got married,” she said. She and her husband had four children. Her husband died last year.

She worked for many years at Kings County Hospital. “I loved bringing a little joy and laughter into the patients’ lives for a few minutes a day,” she said.

These days, she loves taking part in the senior center programs at Shore Hill. “And I love shopping on QVC!’ she said, referring to the television shopping network. “I don’t have to go out to shop. I buy everything on QVC,” she said with a laugh.

Burgess Cooper loves playing the piano, but admitted that she wishes she could find other musicians to play with. “Music really should be shared,” she said.

She tried to teach her great-granddaughter to play the piano. “She was all enthusiastic at first, but the she got bored with it. She does too much of this,” she said mimicking the motions of texting on a cell phone.

Burgress Cooper’s philosophy of life is simple. “Just believe in God,” she said. “God is going to take care of you. You have to feed your spirit as much as your mind,“ she said.

But she also had a friendly warning about God. “Just don’t bug him!” she said.

Burgess Cooper also believes it is important to do good for others. “Faith without good works is death. Saint Paul said that,” she said.

She loves living in Shore Hill. “It’s such a beautiful place and I like the people,” she said. She has never been shy, she said. “People are the same wherever you go. You just have to work your way through,” she said.

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