EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Marinette resident Mildred Marcusen, 94, still sings and plays piano with the Menominee River Chorus.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Marinette resident Mildred Marcusen, 94, still sings and plays piano with the Menominee River Chorus.

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MARINETTE — Have you heard the phrase, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it?” Many musicians find this to be the case; they go a few years without practicing and lose the skills they’ve gained and can barely play their instrument anymore.

However, Mildred Marcusen of Marinette proves that if you keep using what you have, those skills will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Marcusen is a currently 94 and lives in the apartment buildings on Mary Street. She is an active member of the Menominee River Chorus and is a self-taught pianist, as well as what she proudly calls a domestic engineer.

“When I was a really little girl, we had a player piano. I don’t know how my parents got it, but it played that song, ‘God Be With You Till We Meet Again,’ and ‘Let The Rest Of The World Go By,’ and I didn’t play a lot but I played those two a little because I was intrigued,” she said.

Marcusen said that she never took any lessons, and didn’t start playing piano much until later. “I sang more than I played,” she said, “I was in fifth grade, and I think I sang ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town,’ that was my first song I sang for people.”

She said she went to St. Augustine Catholic School for elementary school and graduated Wausaukee High School in 1942. During her school years, she said she never walked to school a day in her life. “I lived on a farm in Wausaukee, and the bus we used was hand-built by my uncle,” she said, “but during the winter he used a sleigh pulled by mules to get us to school.”

She said she was away from music for a while after her school years. She picked it back up later, after she learned to drive a car. “I didn’t learn how to drive until I was 41, and that’s when I decided to go out to the Marinette County Hospital to sing and play,” she said.

Marcusen got started doing that through the Wisconsin Extension Homemakers. “We each sponsored one of the patients, and that’s how I started singing. I’ve been going out there for over 45 years volunteering. It used to be the Marinette County Hospital, then it went to the Marinette County Nursing Home, and now it’s Rennes East Health and Rehab Center; and back then they raised all their own food and everything. We sponsored this fellow, and he played the accordion,” she said.

Marcusen said she started playing piano again after meeting the accordion player she sponsored. By that time, she was about 49. “I’ve been in the Homemakers for 50 years, and the Homemakers really brought me back to music, and I’ve been in the Menominee River Chorus now since the 1980s,” she said.

Apart from music, Marcusen was a domestic engineer for nearly all of her life. “I raised six sons and one daughter,” she said, “and if my husband hadn’t been strict like he was, I would’ve gone nuts!”

She said that by now, many of her friends and fellow members of other groups have passed away, so she’s very thankful to be a part of the Chorus. “I’ll hopefully be a part of it as long as I can carry a tune, which is really important since it’s a barbershop chorus and it’s all a cappella,” she said.