Smith to play piano in Mobile for late sister, Megan Kelley

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 29, 2015

Every year in May, some time near Memorial Day, Robin Barton Smith feels drawn to visit the Geri Moulton Children’s Park, adjacent to USA Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Mobile.

In the park – which is named for her late sister’s best friend – are dozens of bronze sculptures, most featuring children.

“We have one in memory of my sister,” Smith said. “Quackers.”

The sculpture is of a child feeding ducks.

“I tend to go and visit close to Memorial Day,” Smith said, adding that her sister passed on the patriotic holiday. “I saw an article, that someone donated a brand new Steinway to the new lobby.”

Smith learned that volunteers play the piano for those who go and come from the facility, so she went online and completed an application. Today, on the ninth anniversary of her sister’s death, Smith will spend her first hours there as a volunteer pianist.

Linda Barton Moore had been having problems with a hip, but thought it was from spending time on the road, traveling back and forth from Mobile to Heath visiting family. When the conditions worsened, she had tests done, and was diagnosed with breast cancer, although doctors never found cancer in her breasts.

“By the time she had any kind of symptoms, it was already in her bone marrow,” Smith said. “What we have learned since then is that she likely had the smallest of tumors in her rib cage, which no ultrasound or sonogram would pick up.”

Moore’s cancer was treated with chemotherapy, but lost her battle after 24 months.

“They had just released her from the hospital on hospice care the Friday before,” Smith recalled. “We saw her Saturday. She left us shortly after midnight Sunday night.”

Smith said she had already committed to play the piano today when she went to visit Donna Kelley, the mother of Megan Kelley, who lost her battle with leukemia earlier this year.

“It just hit me,” Smith said. “I had to play for Megan, too.”

She asked for Megan’s favorite songs – adding the caveat that she doesn’t do country.

Smith said she’s been practicing up a storm.

“It will be a little of this and a little bit of that,” she said. “My main library is church music like offertories, but I’ll do some classical and I’ve picked out some Disney music. I’ve got some oldies from the 70s and 80s, and some from the stage.

“What I play will be based on a feel of who’s coming through at what time,” she said.

A close fried, Laura Oswalt, will accompany her.

Smith has spent many years playing music. She studied piano from the time she was in second grade, and was in music programs in school growing up in Dothan. As an adult, she has served as a church pianist at Bethany Baptist and at First Baptist Gantt. Right now, she’s taking a break.

But when she read about the volunteer musicians, she knew it was something she wanted to do.

“This just hit me,” she said. “My sister would love this. She played beautifully. I had to do something to honor her.”