Flossie, meet Sam: Band Director Sam Szor celebrates Flossie Keefer's 93rd

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

It’s a face Flossie Keefer had seen many, many times on television. The man at the front of the band from the Music Under the Stars series at the Toledo Zoo.

Now it was a face she could study right in her own living room.

Sam Szor, longtime conductor of the Toledo Concert Band, walked into Flossie’s East Street home Sunday afternoon to help celebrate her 93rd birthday.

“I’ve always admired him,” Flossie said before his arrival.flossie

The arrangements for the visit were made by a neighbor, Kathy Wickham, who went to nursing school with Sam’s wife, Judy.

It was 5:20 and the Szors hadn’t arrived. There was a sense of anticipation in the Keefer home, and maybe a feeling of nervousness, as well.

It wasn’t much later that the burst of energy known as Sam Szor was shaking hands with Flossie and relating his life experiences to this admiring fan.

Sam said that he grew up in what was once the Hungarian neighborhood of Toledo.

“When I started school, I knew two words in English—airplane and ice cream—and that was about it,” he said.

He’d go home from school and move right back into Hungarian.

“It wasn’t until I went to the University of Michigan that I spoke English for the entire day.”

In high school, Sam’s music teacher had a plan for his future. She asked what he might do after graduation and he answered that he would probably attend Bowling Green or Toledo to study engineering.

“No you aren’t,” she said. “You’re going to Ann Arbor and you’re going to study music.”

Sam packed his three instruments, auditioned for a professor and was accepted.

“Have you ever had an elderberry pie?” Sam suddenly asked Flossie.

It’s not that the college story had ended. This is just the way Sam’s conversations travel. Somewhere in his story about driving the back roads through Temperance to Dundee to Milan and into Ann Arbor, the thought of elderberries must have popped into his mind.

“I’ve made hundreds of them,” Flossie answered, “but I don’t like elderberry pie.”

Her husband Charlie loved them when he was alive, but he could have the entire pie to himself.

“Oh dear,” she said, “they’re such a nuisance to prepare.”

The conversation turned to apple dumplings and to key lime pie, and then over to Costa Rica where beans and rice are a staple, and finally to iguana.

“It tastes like chicken,” Sam declared, but this was just a Szor joke.

Sam returned to his college era and talked about his first job as a teacher in a Toledo high school.

“I also played bassoon for 15 years with the symphony and nine years with the Toledo opera.”

It’s the opera where he honed his conducting skills, but he was a conductor with a brush cut.

“All my serious music friends said I needed to have long hair,” Sam recalled, “so I went to this wig shop on Madison Avenue.”

He found a hair piece that made him look like Toscanini, but it cost $250, and that was decades ago. The clerk asked if he wanted it, but Sam demurred.

“No, that’s too much tou-pée.”

Arrrg, another Szor joke.

Now it’s Flossie’s turn for a story and she’s talking about her piano in the front room.

“My husband got it for me when I was 34 years old,” she said. “It was my birthday present. I told him I’m not going to get any older. I’m going to stay 34. But somehow I did get old.”

“But think of all the pleasure you got out of that piano,” Sam suggests.

“It makes me sad that I can’t do it anymore,” Flossie answers, referring to her arthritis.

Sam tells Flossie he just wrapped up his 50th season as director of Music Under the Stars at the zoo. One of his favorite parts of the show is the encore at the end when the band performs a special number that isn’t listed on the program. Sam’s son, Michael, often helps transpose a piece for the orchestra to play.

One week it was “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. Another time “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen was played. Many people in the audience are familiar with the pieces, Sam says, because they heard their kids play them for years and years.

One number in particular stands out in Sam’s mind because he remembers his announcer, veteran television newscaster Gordon Ward, introducing the piece.

“It was so difficult for Gordon Ward to say, ‘I’m a Hunka Hunka Burning Love’.”

Flossie had been partying since 1 o’clock Sunday afternoon, the start of her birthday open house, but she could probably listen to Sam Szor’s stories for another few hours. Most likely, he had a few hours worth of stories yet to tell, too.

But his family was pulling him back home to Toledo, so he led a rendition of “Happy Birthday” and bid Flossie good-bye.

Flossie was still smiling as he made his way out.

 “This has been the biggest thrill of my life,” she said.

    – Oct. 9, 2002 
  • Homecoming Court
    HOMECOMING—One senior candidate will be chosen Morenci’s fall homecoming queen during half-time ceremonies Friday at the football field. In the back row are seniors Mikayla Price, who will be escorted by Mason Vaughn; Madison Bachman, escorted by Kiegan Merillat, and Mikayla Reinke, escorted by Griffin Grieder. Senior Ariana Roseman is absent from the photo. Her escort is Garrett Smith. In the front is sophomore Abbie White, who will be escorted by Ryder Price; junior Madysen Schmitz, escorted by Harley McCaskey and freshman Madison Keller, escorted by Jarett Cook.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016