Jeanette “Janie” Smith Mailhot never saw a piano she didn’t like.

The Batavia, N.Y., native and longtime Westbrook resident brought music to much of Maine for decades, playing in a number of bands.

She knew classical music, in particular enjoying the work of Edvard Grieg, and played much of the popular Big Band music of the 1940s and 1950s.

“If she heard a song one time, she could play it, in any key,” said her husband, Philip Mailhot. “She was a virtuoso.”

Mrs. Mailhot died Wednesday, just four days shy of her 80th birthday.

She and her husband would have had their 60th wedding anniversary in June.

“We got along famously. She was just a marvelous woman,” he said. “Probably the most talented person to ever come out of Batavia, New York.

“She made me a better man, no question,” he said.

The two performed in southern Maine nursing homes in the late 1950s and 1960s with their group, The Stylists.

The group had a horn player and a marimba player, with Mrs. Mailhot on the piano and her husband on the drums.

They also played at other venues. Philip Mailhot remembers one evening, at a country club in South Portland, his wife was stuck playing a badly out-of-tune piano. She compensated for five flats all night, and sounded great, he said.

During vacation trips to Europe, she played in a number of small venues, her husband said.

One time, he said, she even played the piano from under the instrument.

She loved fun, her husband said, and had something good to say about everyone — even people she didn’t know.

Besides her musical talent, one thing people remember about Mrs. Mailhot is her smile, said her son, Marc Mailhot.

“It was infectious, from one ear to the other,” he said.

His mother had him taking piano lessons when he was 6. She insisted that he practice every day, and was a “slave driver.”

“I’m glad I did now,” said Marc Mailhot, who is now a musician and piano tuner.

He formed a band in the 1960s, Love Inc. His father was the manager and his mother was the wardrobe manager.

“I know a lot of musicians. I’ve met some great musicians,” he said.

“There is no doubt in my mind Mom surpasses every one of them.”

She even recorded a tape of her music, which has since been transferred to CD, titled “With Love From Janie.”

She was on a women’s bowling team for a time in the 1960s, at the Bowl-A-Wile Lanes in Gorham.

She also was the music director of the Westbrook Senior Citizens and was active in committees at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, where her funeral Mass will be held Monday.

Two of Mrs. Mailhot’s favorite songs will be sung: “Ave Maria” and “Mary Did You Know.”

 

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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