Piano Dream Lives on Despite Wind Storm Damage

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VINTON — The Wurlitzer baby grand piano, its sound board covered in shattered glass from a nearby window, its wooden hammers warped by water, its strings strung out, brought tears to Mindy Burke’s eyes. Especially when her parents planned to get rid of it.

"I didn’t want them to throw it out," says Mindy. "I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. But it was my piano ..."

It had been earned 25 years ago when Mindy, then 10, went a full year without watching television. She’d practiced on it through high school. It was supposed to go into a new home when she got one, to be played by her daughters, Tia, 11, Kalie, 7, Sadie, 5, and Libbie, 18 months, as they followed in her footsteps.

But high winds that blew through Vinton on July 11, 2011, knocked out a window in Larry and Linda Druschel's home, damaging the piano beyond reasonable repair. Even Dan Malloy, longtime Cedar Rapids piano repairman, said buying another piano would be less expensive.

But, Mindy wouldn’t give up. Neither would her mom, who made numerous phone calls to the insurance company.

This story began March 5, 1987. A teacher told a New Jersey boy to give up TV for a year, to win a bet.

"Mine was for $500," Mindy says. "I’m guessing that’s what his was. I wouldn’t have come up with that on my own."

She smiles. "I did it as a bet. I didn’t think about what I was going to do with the money."

Two days later, "No TV" began. It would last until March 7, 1988.

"I used to back into the living room to ask my parents a question," she recalls, wanting to avoid even a glance at the TV. "The Winter Olympics were on in February of ‘88. My brothers (Desi and Dusty) and my parents watched them. That’s what I remember about the end of it."

She also remembers finally watching "Parent Trap," a movie her parents recorded for her.

Mindy had kept plenty busy. She read 1,000 pages a month. She played outside in the summer. And, she played piano.

"My mom made me practice 10 minutes a day," she recalls. "I practiced more than that."

So mom suggested Mindy take her winnings — $633 because others had chipped in — to buy a piano. That paid for half the cost of the used 1930s Wurlitzer.

As Mindy went through life — she’s been a social worker with the Iowa Department of Human Services for a dozen years, married Tom Burke in 2003, adopted Tia and had three daughters — the piano remained at her parents’ home. Some day it was to be in her home.

In August, that finally happened after she and her family moved to rural Vinton and Dan completed the piano’s rebuild.

The cost: About $10,000. Preserving piano memories for the next generation: Priceless.

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