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Celebrating hospital volunteer Ed Leuders

If you find yourself walking through the University of Utah Hospital on Monday mornings or Thursday afternoons, you will hear beautiful music echoing through the foyer. And it’s all thanks to Ed Lueders. 

More than a decade ago, Lueders began his career as a hospital volunteer, bringing uplifting piano music to patients, staff, and visitors at the hospital. A self-taught pianist, Lueders has been playing for as long as he can remember.

“In my life, there’s always been a piano at hand,” said Lueders. “I like to see what happens when I strike the keys.” 

Lueders is a remarkable individual, not only because of his musical talent, but also because of what he has overcome to stay seated at the piano and live a long and full life. 

Lueders is legally blind. However, he has never let this slow him down. It would be easy to slow down, though, because Lueders turns 100 years old on Valentine’s Day. But he has no plans to stop living anytime soon. 

“I celebrate life by living,” said Lueders. “I can’t read music, and it’s a good thing I don’t have to. I let the piano speak for me, in a way. It’s a kind of wordless communication.” 

The impact of Lueders’ service has been great, and he has many friends and fans who come to visit and chat during his volunteer shifts on Mondays and Thursdays. 

“All of my new friends and old friends come by and say hi, and tell me how much they appreciate the piano music,” he said. “I’m always ready to interrupt and I meet lots of old friends and make lots of new ones, too. It keeps me going.” 

On Monday, February 13, the hospital celebrated Lueders 100th birthday with a small ceremony honoring his life and service to others. His two sons will travel to Salt Lake City – one from as far as Paris, France – to honor their father and join in on the celebration. 

Lueders legacy at the University of Utah goes far beyond his volunteer work at the hospital. 

Lueders joined the Department of English on lower campus as a professor in 1966. He taught reading and writing and was the director of the creative writing program until he retired in 1990. 

Lueders has been losing his vision gradually over the past 50 years due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that slowly damages your central vision. 

“I’ve lost my vision very gradually,” said Lueders. “I can’t focus on things and have to operate with my peripheral vision.” 

When asked how he keeps his spirits up, Lueders’ response is cheerful and direct. 

“I don’t keep them up, they keep me up,” he said. “I don’t have a conventional spiritual association. I’m not a religious person in that respect. I am just redeemed by living my life.” 

 Currently, Lueders lives on his own in a two room apartment in a building specializing in senior living near the U campus. As his eyesight continues to worsen, he relies on friends who help when he needs extra support. 

“I am so lucky that I have friends who think about me and help me when I need help,” he said. 

To know Lueders is to love him, so it’s no wonder that there are so many who rally to support him both at home, and when he plays the piano on his weekly shifts at the hospital. 

“I like the phrase ‘to play the piano’,” said Lueders. “It is a species of play. All the more so because I’m not reading music. I don’t play the notes, I play the music. It’s altogether me and the piano as partners in the enterprise, and it’s play. People always say that I must practice a lot. And I preface every time I play, that’s what I’m doing.” ​