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Pianist Hewett Plays Century Note As Family Donates Music Scholarship
When he sits down at the piano, Larry Hewett, at age 100, does not use any sheet music to seemingly play forever.
"I already know the notes. Why mess it up now with sheet music?" Hewett grins sheepishly before offering another one-liner.
While it's hard to get a jump on the centenarian, when Hewett hit the century mark in November, part of the celebration was to announce that the Larry and Helen Hewett Music Scholarship had been established by his family with a $12,000 gift to the Okaloosa-Walton College Foundation.
"We sort of had to let daddy know about the surprise scholarship after mother died in August," said Nancy Maxson, after she and her husband Maj. Gen. (ret.) Bill Maxson, who live in Freeport and sponsored the scholarship gift, along with her brother his wife Bob and Barbara Hewett of Tucson, Arizona.
"You just don't pull much over him--even if he is 100. We knew we wanted to sponsor a scholarship in honor of my parents at O-W because of everything the college has done to support the arts for the community."
Although he started playing the piano at age 9 and performed regularly at age 15 at in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, Hewett never quit his day job in retail sales to pursue music full-time.
"I couldn't afford to because I had a wife and family to support and there was a little thing called the depression" said Hewett of his 75-year marriage to Helen, whom he met and married while the two were at Hillsdale College where he traveled with college bands and accompanied the men's glee club.
Even in his younger years, Hewett couldn't turn his back totally on music. He played the hotel and lounge circuit in Cleveland throughout his retail career, recalled Nancy Maxson. "He had those two great attributes of a retailer. He genuinely loved people and he knew his merchandise," she said. "Just as with his music, he loved his audience and he awed them with his technical skill at the piano."
In the three decades since his "retirement," Hewett has had the "luxury of focusing on his music." Until recently, he played in concert at the Westwood Retirement Resort atrium every Thursday night and played at social hour every Friday. After 9/11 hit, Hewett organized a musical show with other performers and raised $3,000 for victims' families.
Hewett said he was "pleased and honored" to have a scholarship named for him at the college on his 100th birthday. Then in typical Hewett jest, he quipped, "what took 'ya so long."
Dr. Bob Richburg, president of OWC, fired back, "We had to wait for your kids to come up with the money."
Actually, Richburg said the college is "so very proud to be a part of this birthday present to create the Larry and Helen Hewett Music Scholarship. We all know of this man's incredible talent because of his performances in our community and at the OWC Foundation annual dinners over the years."
"Larry Hewett is an institution and it is our college and its students that will truly be enriched by a scholarship in honor of Larry and Helen. I would like to thank Bill and Nancy Maxson for their involvement in the life of OW over the years," said Richburg.