- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

ROSELAND, Neb. (AP) - Kenesaw native Betty Schirmer has always been bothered when celebrities and others mess up the words while singing the national anthem.

“I taught school for 42 years, and my first-graders always knew three verses of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and the Canadian national anthem, too,” Schirmer told the Hastings Tribune. “I think it’s important.”

Schirmer, 87, who now resides at The Kensington in Hastings, made it a goal of hers to someday sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at an athletic event, and on Oct. 23 that time came.

After the Silver Lake and Heartland Lutheran volleyball teams had finished warming up for their match, the crowd at the Silver Lake invite removed their hats and rose to their feet to honor the country with the singing of the national anthem. Schirmer took the microphone and sang her heart out - without missing a word.

The crowd roared as she finished and took her seat, but Schirmer was modest in regard to her performance.

“I’ve never done this before. It was OK,” she said. “I enjoyed it.”

Rhonda Kolbet, program coordinator at The Kensington, arranged for a group of Kensington residents to attend the match during the team’s senior night. Kolbet also made arrangements with the school for Schirmer to sing the national anthem. Kolbet said it was on Schirmer’s “bucket list.”

While it was the first time Schirmer had sung in front of a crowd at a sporting event, Schirmer is no stranger to performing on stage.

Schirmer played the upright bass in a band called Grandmas on the Go, which also featured Jeanette Schmidt, Teressa Franken and Peg Vansant. Schirmer and her late husband, Bert, used to play their instruments together. Schirmer played her upright bass while Bert played the rhythm guitar.

After Bert died, Schirmer was approached with an opportunity to continue her musical career. She said that one day Cindy Uden, who was a second-grade teacher at Christ Lutheran near Prosser and a good friend of Schirmer’s, asked her: “How would you like to come out and volunteer at Christ Lutheran for one hour a week?”

Laughing, Schirmer said her response was, “Can I come for all day, three days a week?”

Uden is also the one who introduced Schirmer to Schmidt, who played the hammer dulcimer and was looking to put together pieces to form a band. The two joined forces with Franken, who played the musical saw, and Vansant, who also played the hammer dulcimer.

“The four of us went all around eastern Nebraska and got as far as Hayes Center in western Nebraska,” Schirmer said. “We got all the way down into Kansas. We did a lot.”

Medical issues forced the band to bring its performances to a halt. For Schirmer, it was a stroke that kept her from continuing to tour the state, but it hasn’t kept Schirmer from performing in Hastings.

“At The Kensington, about once every two or three months, I play autoharp, accompany myself and sing,” she said. “But I’m losing my eyesight, so I don’t know how much longer that’s going to happen.”

As Schirmer watched Silver Lake beat Heartland Lutheran in the first match of the evening, she said she doesn’t keep up with sports.

“I don’t know anything about the game, but I do know a lot about singing,” she said with a smile.

___

Information from: Hastings Tribune, http://www.hastingstribune.com

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