On a rainy afternoon following Memorial Day, former Navy hospital corpsman and Regional Hospice patient, Rudy Behrens, infused the Center for Comfort Care and Healing with warmth and cheer when he performed an intimate piano recital for staff and patients at the Center. Behrens, a resident of New Fairfield, entertained his audience with standards like George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” in addition to playing his own original compositions. In between songs, Behrens amused concert-goers with colorful anecdotes that triggered laughter as well as poignant emotion.
Throughout his 90 years, Behrens’ love of music has figured prominently. At eight years old, his parents invested in a piano and insisted he practice no less than an hour a day. Over time, his skill morphed into passion—one that he credits with saving his life during the Korean War. Behrens was pulled from his responsibilities as a member of the military medical unit to entertain the troops as a pianist. That took him from out of harm’s way, he explains. Years later, that fateful decision still prompts feelings of both gratitude and guilt because many of Behrens’ fellow corpsman were killed in the war. He considers himself a lucky man.
Behrens didn’t pursue music professionally. Instead, he chose a career in science, studying chemistry and microbiology at Rutgers University. He retired as Research Manager for a large chemical company where he was the primary inventor on thirty patents. Later in life, he went on to author Philidioms and Other Thoughts to Live and Laugh By, a collection of original philosophical statements, idioms and other forms of humor, available on Amazon. Today, with his performance at the Center as proof, Behrens still has a strong love of the piano, music, and for making people light up and laugh.
Written by Jennifer Matlack, Volunteer Field Coordinator at Regional Hospice and Palliative Care