Community Stories/News

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing

A lifelong love of singing and a love of working with older individuals led Marsha Dickerman to share her musical abilities with residents of The Morrison Communities.

The Bethlehem resident had been a longtime volunteer for various North Country organizations when she first began volunteering at The Morrison Skilled Nursing Facility four years ago, sharing old timey songs with the residents for an hour each week.

Marsha sings a capella (without accompanying music) and the residents join in on favorites like “You Are My Sunshine” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” and many familiar folk songs, patriotic songs and hymns.

And once Summit by Morrison opened, Marsha began volunteering there weekly, expanding her repertoire to include songs the residents in the Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities would enjoy. For the most part this group is composed of a slightly younger crowd, with their favorite music spanning the years from the ‘40s through the ‘60s, including Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Hank Williams and The Beatles. They have so much fun together “they don’t want me to stop,” she says.

In both locations, Marsha notes, “I try to arrange and pick songs that mean something or will cheer them up and make the day worthwhile. I ask them what they know and what they would like to hear. Sometimes the singing is loosey-goosey. If I know the words, we sing it, it not, we la, la, la along.”

It’s not a performance, she insists, “It’s a sing-a-long.” And she always asks, “Now do you know who sang this?” giving residents a chance to search their memories and name the singer, as well as sing the words to the tune.

“I have a heart for these people,” she says. “They are so much fun, so witty and clever. We joke. I tell them silly stories. They tell me something. We’re like a family, hashing over the good old days.”

It’s evident that Marsha and her singing bring joy to the residents who look forward to her visits. One woman, who hails from Scranton, always requests the “Pennsylvania Polka,” as it brings back fond memories of the lively tune and her years living in that region. Another woman loves singing the “On Top of Spaghetti” version of “On Top of Old Smokey.” And, Marsha says it’s wonderful each week to hear a resident of  The Morrison with a “great voice, booming out the songs.”

Marsha was born and raised in Littleton where her dad owned a turkey farm on Mann’s Hill. “When I married, I told people I wanted to travel, and I did. I moved to Bethlehem. I’ve been there 54 years!” she says with a laugh.

And, making it a real family affair, sometimes Marsha’s sister Connie Funai volunteers with her, harmonizing on the songs. Connie and her husband own homes in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire and when she’s in town she comes along. “She loves the people, too,” says Marsha.

“It’s really selfish. I get a lot more out of it, than I give. They deserve whatever we can give them. They are precious people.”

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