Lois Stahl (Johnson)
Lois M. Stahl, age 94, of Minneapolis. Born May 9, 1924; passed away June 30, 2018. Preceded in death by husband, George. Survived by daughter, Marta (Ross) Nelson; son, Eric (Karen) Stahl; grandchildren, Rosalyn and Daniel Nelson, Sonja and Jakob Stahl; beloved sister, Phyllis (James) Priest and their sons, Carl and Phillip. As a respected accompanist, piano teacher and violist, music was her life, especially being married to George Stahl, a bassist in the MN Orchestra. Funeral Service 11:00 a.m., Thursday, July 26th at Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer, 5440 Penn Ave. S., Mpls. Visitation, 4-8 p.m., Wednesday, July 25th at Gill Brothers Funeral Home, 5801 Lyndale Ave. S., and one hour prior to service at church. Interment Lakewood Cemetery, Mpls. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the MN Orchestra or Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer.
Lois Marcia Stahl was born in Chicago, IL to Charles Arthur and Marie Johnson. Years later she got a sister, Phyllis Charlene. She and her sister stayed close all through their lives, even their kids got to know each other. Even after Lois’ life took her up to Minneapolis, the families stayed well in touch. Phyllis’ son Carl went to Augsburg up here, fell in love, stayed, and kind of became part of our family! Carl took bass lessons from George, and got to where he plays in Civic Orchestra like Lois. We’re grateful that he gave her rides to Civic after awhile. Without his help she eventually would have had to quit. So thanks for that, and for all the little things you did to help keep her going in that home. You were such a good friend to her!
Words cannot adequately express how we all will miss her extraordinary musical talent, with piano playing being her finest expression. She was constantly doing something artistic, and was a dedicated violist with Civic. She played organ at St. Andrews on York Av. S. And when that mission ended, she offered her piano services to Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer on Saturday night. We have a recording of her accompanying Phil Meyer (French horn in MN Orchestra at the time), and Sarita Roche, fine soprano around town, a regular soloist at St. Agnes Catholic Church. Challenging stuff. We’re proud that she kept her piano and viola chops up like a champion. When she was 92, she was given the chance to conduct a march played by the Civic. (Thanks for bidding on that item, woodwinds! You rock!) She accompanied Marta on movements from the Beethoven Spring Sonata, for a couple of fundraisers, and a program for the University of Minnesota Women’s Club Music Section. This was last year, at 93. The list seems to go on and on. The “Energizer Bunny” Carl and Marta affectionately called her. Definitely a strong mind willing it forward.
She also believed in herself, and she always wanted you to believe in yourself too. In fact, although she’d listen to you explain yourself, she didn’t feel comfortable leaving the conversation at hopelessness, or complaints with no plans for changing the situation. She’d try to leave things on a positive note.
And she just “hated” sitting around wasting time! Although she enjoyed PBS programs in her widowhood, she still distrusted the way TV could “steal a person’s time”. On the other hand, she really liked the camera and taking pictures. “Greatest invention of modern times: it makes time stand still, even if just for a moment”. We have over 45 Photo Albums to prove it, not including slides!
So what is her story anyway?
Her dad helped run a dairy with his Swedish born parents. He learned to fix the milk trucks, and loved driving them. Lois would get a ride to school in the truck sometimes. They got along FINE!
When she was home, her mom taught her about Swedish baking, cooking, sewing, painting, and how interesting music and art were. Her mom played piano by ear. Lois heard music on the radio etc. and would make the piano repeat what she had heard. Soon after, lessons were afforded, although times were tough. Soon she was playing at the elementary school activities, and later at church for services. Phyllis was musical too, and they had fun with it. Mom and her also loved biking all over Chicago and beyond into the “country” as it was back then. When Mom was sick as a little girl, Grandpa made the dollhouse that she was so proud to show guests. And she always said “This dollhouse was meant to be played with, not just for show.” So she loved her family dearly. All four of her grandparents came from Sweden, and she heard that lovely lilt of their accent, and learned some of their Swedish too. When she inherited from her grandparents many of the letters of correspondence in Swedish, she rolled up her sleeves and took Swedish lessons for real, from the American Swedish Institute, in order to read them. She stuck with it for years.
She went to college. First she got her bachelor’s from Northwestern in Evanston IL, in music, and was able to get a band-teaching job in Otsego, MI. So off she went, by herself, and worked there for a few years, meanwhile keeping up her “piano chops”. ( While teaching in Michigan, Mom bought a ‘39 Oldsmobile, and then learned how to drive it.) In Michigan, she won an audition to play a movement from a Beethoven piano symphony with the Kalamazoo Symphony. Also, she played viola with them under the guest baton of the famous Georges Enesco (of course he was conducting his “Romanian Rhapsody”).
Then she got the inspiration to go back to Chicago, and get her Master’s in piano performance from Northwestern, while accompanying vocal studios etc. She had played viola in high school, and wanted to keep that up too, so she got in the Evanston Philharmonic. Somewhere in there, in 1953, she joined the group “Experiment in International Living”, which would send young people to live with a family overseas for a while. Mom was sent to Austria for 6 weeks. Another adventure! On the way over, she ended up meeting her lifelong friend Bob Van Tyn. He was a young doctor from the Netherlands by way of Indonesia. The way they hit it off was finding out he could really play piano! They whipped up impromptu duets to entertain the ship travelers! He wanted her to visit him and his fiancé when she got free time in Europe. And she and the fiancé Joke (“YOH-ka”) became friends.
Now comes the best part. The story Mom loved to tell:
“I normally drove to the evening Evanston rehearsals. But the car was in the shop one week, so I took the “L”. Going up to that dimly lit platform after the rehearsal, I was a little leery because there was tall man up there in the shadows. But then I realized he had a string bass alongside him, and I thought: How much harm can he be?” They talked, and she decided maybe she could give him rides to the rehearsals from now on. She and George soon got engaged. The rest is history.
What a life they had and the people they met, the places they saw. Lois and George both loved to find out what other people were like, and didn’t sit home waiting for life to happen. She wanted to check out performances in town, new movies that looked interesting, art exhibits coming through town, etc. Marta learned later that Mom had studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, to study painting and drawing. No wonder she cut out articles about architecture, and art, and of course books that sounded interesting.
Our first years as a family were in Indianapolis where Dad played in the Symphony there. Since they didn’t have a full year contract at that time, he’d clean rugs between to make ends meet. Mom taught. (I think living in Indianapolis for 10 years was when Mom learned to pay attention to the Indianapolis 500. Every Memorial Day, she’d follow it…) Dad soon got the summer job of playing Grant Park Symphony in Chicago (just for the summer….then back to Indiana.) Nice for us: cooler near Lake Michigan, and we got to live near Grandma and Grandpa Johnson. Real near: they never rented the upper duplex of theirs…they saved it for us! And we got to know our cousins Carl and Phil. And another bonus: lots of time spent at the Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, the Field Museum, The Museum of Science and Industry, and the Library. And riding the “L”. and concerts. A player piano at Grandma’s. Watching baseball games with Grandpa on TV. (Grandpa would sometimes be watching one game on TV while listening to another on earbuds.) No wonder Mom liked baseball games!
When we moved up to Minnesota (Dad won the audition in ’67), it was year-round. Mom made a life of it. Then she started discovering other friends from her past had moved up here too! Join the party! Bob Van Tyn had become the head of the Emergency Room of St. Paul Ramsey hospital. We got acquainted with their family, and had so many nice times. I still can hear Mom and Bob pounding out the Mozart four-hands they used to play, and “Tea for Two” four-hands. They also got everybody to join them, in vocal solos (Joke had an astoundingly pretty soprano voice), and there were enough instruments for us to sight-read Brandenburg Concertos together. Ruth Fardig, who Mom had known through college in Chicago, was now in St. Paul with her husband, both employed teaching, (music and history respectively), and leading the worship music at their church. Again, a piano duet friend! Not to mention our families also getting together socially. Dodie Peterson, up from Indianapolis, was now married, so Mom didn’t recognize the name when she first saw her up here. But she was at a recital, and realized it was the Dorothy she knew from Indiana. Oh, more connections. Mom makes friends for life.
Well, a life well-lived. Thank God for all the memories she made for us, with us, as a result of who she was. She always admired people that accomplished a lot and left a legacy. (“Look at those quilts Helen made. What a legacy she left! What do I have to show for all I’ve done? What is my legacy?” she mused to Marta before the stroke.)
Those who knew her would say she left a legacy of her own. People were always amazed at how she played piano. She was a natural AND she worked at it. An unstoppable combination, sight-reading and playing by ear equally well. And she still had interest in helping at church, joining Meals-on-Wheels (“I enjoy talking to the people!”), walking around Lake Harriet enough to become one of the “Lake Harriet Walkers”, joining the LOIS club (she was one of the early members), involving herself in the Thursday Musical, the Minnesota Music Teacher’s Association, and the Univ. of MN Women’s Club, (various sections, including of course Music). She had a quiet, but real and abiding faith in God, and Christ. We can reflect gratefully now, although we can’t hug her anymore. But we can remember the hugs, and the smiles, and look at all the camera work she left behind, and hear the amazing recordings we are lucky enough to have. The rose that grows through the fence beyond our sight continues to grow somewhere, and always in our memory.