Music Lights Up the Brain for Longtime Musician with Alzheimer’s

For more than 60 years, Bert Rose was a celebrated pianist, who played at numerous benefits and weddings — including the Sharon Percy/Jay Rockefeller nuptials — and accompanied Ann-Margret, Debbie Reynolds and Brooke Shields at glittering venues.

But now, at age 90, Rose remembers almost none of it. For the last two years, he has lived at Autumn Leaves, a Vernon Hills facility for people with dementia, which has stolen his ability to manage the most basic tasks of daily living.

Still, when he sits down at the baby grand piano in the lobby — as he does almost every day — the fog evaporates. Moments earlier, Rose had asked if his wife, who died in 1984, would be visiting. Now, his fingers fly over the keys, retrieving “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “You Are My Sunshine” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” from the recesses of his ravaged brain.

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