Dottie Luedke and George have been best of pals since 1989. Her husband, Vern, doesn’t seem to mind much — since George is actually an organ.
George resides at the Key Peninsula Community Center in Home and is quite well known in these parts, and even as far away as Idaho, California, and Alaska. His counterpart Dottie, originally from Auburn, has an extensive musical background. As a child, she played the fiddle or piano with her mother while her grandmother played the violin. Her whole family enjoyed music, as she recalls.
Anyone who has met these two is probably aware of the interesting story of how they met and the fate of how an old beat-up organ from the Elks Lodge in Auburn made its way out to the remote town of Home on the Key Peninsula. This has been an ongoing question for the many lucky folks who have had the pleasure to meet George.
Well, this is how the story goes:
Sixteen years ago in 1989, Dottie first met George (nameless at the time.) It may not have been love at first sight but the bond grew with time. Together they entertained many people at various functions held at the Elks Lodge in Auburn. The two established quite a reputation as a great musical duo, until one sad day the lodge had to move to a new building and no longer had room for the old organ. The group members decided to put George up for sale.
He sat outside in the rain for some time but no one wanted to buy him. They eventually lowered the price and still no takers. Finally, the organization decided to donate George for a good cause, so Dottie and Vern came to his rescue, loaded him into their truck and brought him to the only place they thought he would find happiness, a place close to their home where Dottie and her pal could entertain once again, somewhere close to their home. The KP Community Center seemed the perfect place. They even set up a jar for donations toward repairs. Fortunately, he only needed some oiling. After enough “tips,” they sent for a repairman to quench George’s thirst.
So, for past the two years now, George and Dottie are doing what they enjoy most, putting smiles on people’s faces. Dottie particularly enjoys watching everyone’s feet tap to the music. She also tries to personalize the songs she plays. For example, Audrey and Stanley Paul have their very own song.
“As we leave, Dottie always plays ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ for us. It’s one of our favorites,” says Audrey between sips of coffee. The couple has been coming to hear the duo for over eight years. Paul, who was born on McNeil Island, actually went to school in the building that is now the community center.
One of Dottie’s favorite memories with George is the time when she watched a woman come into the center using crutches. The woman loved the old song “Yankee Doodle” and requested to hear it. As she was finished with her meal and was about to leave, Dottie played the song for her. The woman was so excited, she started to dance. That was the day someone had to run out to the parking lot and give the woman her crutches back, as she [had] left them at the door while dancing to the song!
Another piece of George trivia is that folks like to give him a tap for good luck as they head out. “People even ask about him when they are in the hospital,” Dottie says with a giggle. She likes to admit that the only time she gets any complaints about her music is when George is not making any noise.
When asked why she dedicates so much of her time to playing music with her old friend, Dottie responds with sincerity in her voice and says her purpose is for the community center and for the people who come here.
“I want them to be recognized, understood, and respected, and a lot of the elderly are not,” she says with teary eyes. “This place makes it possible for that to happen.”
Another member of the center, Joe McAllister, said, “(Dottie) makes the whole luncheon interesting and refreshing for us, though a lot of people come just to hear George.”
Visit Dottie and George
You can enjoy George and Dottie’s music at the Key Peninsula Community Center, located right off Key Peninsula Highway past the Home Bridge. Senior luncheons are held every Wednesday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call 884-4440 for details.