March 16, 2010

Gertrude 'Trudi' Anstey Karger, 98, taught hundreds to play pianoOBITUARIES

— Trudi Anstey Karger could hear a piano playing in the background just before she died.

It was a fitting end to a life in which she instilled a love of music in hundreds of piano students in New Jersey and Maine where she taught for the last 50 years.

Minutes before she died, a student played a Chopin Nocturne in an adjacent room while students held Mrs. Karger's hands. It was a poignant piece that Mrs. Karger and the student had been practicing for several days.

''Trudi's face relaxed. It was just as if someone had scripted the perfect way to take her last breath,'' Wendy Wolf, 56, of Boothbay said.

Wolf, who started taking piano lessons from Mrs. Karger one year ago, held her hand while another student, Barbara Prose, played the piece.

Mrs. Karger, whose name was Gertrude, but was known to her students and friends as Trudi, died July 23 at her home overlooking Linekin Bay in East Boothbay.

Mrs. Karger, who was born on Corona Long Island, New York, was 98 at the time of her death.

She started teaching at the age of 18 and never stopped. She taught piano in New Jersey for 30 years before moving to East Boothbay with her husband, Ralph Karger, 50 years ago.

Many of her students went on to become professional musicians, directing choruses, teaching in public schools, or singing opera.

Eugene Papay of Montvale, N.J., started taking lessons with Mrs. Karger at the age of 10.

Sixty-six years later, Papay is still playing the piano at nursing homes and churches. He made frequent trips to Maine to help Mrs. Karger plan recitals.

''She was very musical. She knew how to bring out the best in her students,'' he said. ''It was her students who kept her going. They were her life.''

Prose said she started taking lessons eight years ago with Mrs. Karger. Prose said her last lesson took place July 15.

''She was keenly intelligent, but also completely passionate about her work,'' Prose said. ''She cared about the whole person ... She was always trying to draw the best out of her students.''

Prose said a piano recital in honor of Mrs. Karger will be held Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor. Students young and old -- some of them in their 70s -- are expected to perform.

— Dennis HoeyPASSAGES

Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.

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