"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac

 

The Melody of Love

By S. Regina Kusnir

During her many years of ministry at Peaslee Neighborhood Center, S. Terry Thorman (left) enjoyed every opportunity she had to spend time with and learn from Miss June (right).

Music flows through S. Terry Thorman. Her ministry of music gives life to what Pablo Casals once said, “Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.”

S. Terry sought to use her music teaching gifts to “work directly with those who would be considered less fortunate.” A call in 1990 from Bruce Weil, who formed a steel drum band of children at Peaslee Neighborhood Center (Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati), invited her to teach piano to the drummers so they could read music notes.

“I knew this was what I’d been looking for!” she recalled. She taught piano to 10 drummers from Peaslee’s Steel Drum Band, then to children from the ‘Homework Room’ and by referrals to others in the neighborhood. The program expanded and other piano teachers were hired to teach with her for the next 30-plus years; to this day it continues to be Peaslee’s longest running program.

“I retired from active part-time piano teaching at Peaslee in May 2022,” S. Terry says. “I was always learning from those who had such different life experiences from me – racial, employment, education, income, housing, life opportunities, etc. As they were playing the piano I was learning much about a very different culture. Poverty is a culture.”  

Miss June

“I met ‘Miss June’ at an open house at Peaslee in 2008,” recalled S. Terry. “She was invited by S. Mary Grafe, an outreach social worker. I asked if she would like to take piano lessons. To my surprise she said an immediate ‘yes’ having taken some lessons as a child. For the next 10-plus years we had weekly lessons. Over time we became friends. We shared May birthdays and usually celebrated. She enjoyed good food but let me know that she enjoyed talking even more.” 

Miss June lived in “Tender Mercies,” a group home for those homeless with mental illness. A highly skilled artist, a brilliant scholar (two degrees in the arts), a student of piano, and a breathtaking writer, June connected to opportunities at Peaslee. She taught children art, supplied table environment for benefits, and accompanied staff to City Hall meetings to advocate for people like herself. She mentored informally by talks with staff or piano students and more formally with groups of Miami University students who spent time living in the area and coming for education by the staff.

Miss June progressed at the piano and S. Terry offered challenging repertoires and comments. “I learned that adults often ‘just want to have fun.’ The assignment: ‘What would you like to do next?’ We wrote a song about her Peaslee family experience, shared it with others and performed it at a Peaslee benefit. Our song reappeared at my ‘retirement’ celebration last May when she gifted me with a signed copy,” S. Terry fondly remembers.

Miss June’s Homelessness

Yes, Miss June had a roof over her head and appreciated what Tender Mercies “did with the resources they had.” Yet her life lacked some basics:

  • A room for her keyboard where she could play at the shelter.
  • A place to make art (she had to store supplies elsewhere) as she lived in a single room.
  • A healthy environment minus allergy-inducing cleaning supplies.
  • A yard with fresh air.
  • Fresh and healthy food availability.
  • Good, affordable medical care.
  • An apartment of her own.

“Miss June died in the lobby of Tender Mercies Shelter on Sept. 28, 2022,” S. Terry recalls. “Having serious trouble breathing, she called 911, went to the hospital where she was ‘stabilized’ and taken back to the shelter. She died shortly thereafter in the entrance room. June was just 62 years old yet considered a wise elder to the community. Josh Spring, a full-time worker with and huge advocate for the homeless, stated in her eulogy that Miss June died of poverty. He didn’t think it was her time to die. ‘She still had a lot to give.’”

S. Terry says, “When I am at Peaslee, I do not experience a difference between my value system and the values of people who become part of the staff or long-time participants in our programs. Isn’t that like heaven? To be looking in the same direction? I just know that God put me at Peaslee. I am still there attending piano recitals of my successors, participating in Women Writing for a Change, attending benefits and whatever opportunities may come up.”

“Humility, Simplicity, Charity” is the SC way to re-state the Golden Rule in harmony with Christ in the poor. 

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