PARSIPPANY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – At nearly 100 years-old, one man’s expert piano playing in bars and nursing homes is earning him the status of local hero in New Jersey.
There are 88 keys on his piano and 99 birthdays under his belt.
As Henry Shapiro closes in on 100, he performed at a luncheon for heart patients Sunday in Parsippany – adding to a long list of gigs over the years.
“Very lucky, very lucky I haven’t got any problems with my hands in general and… I’m fortunate to still have eyesight,” Shapiro said.
He was born in Dover, Morris County in 1920.
In his teens, he played in a seven-piece big band orchestra around Lake Hopatcong, earning 75 cents a night in those early days.
He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II and when he returned, he married, had four kids, and worked in a small department store during the day – then he played piano at night.
“Even when I was working in retail business I was playing three, four, and five nights a week which is what I wanted to do.”
Shapiro says there’s no secret to his longevity, just genetic roulette and luck.
“I can’t tell you. Spin the wheel as they say.”
Shapiro’s cardiologist treated him for a heart murmur and says everything you’ve heard about the importance of a good diet, regular exercise, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check are factors – but that’s only part of it.
There’s something else he says is shared by Shaprio and all his patients who are in their 90’s and 100’s.
“You have to be resilient to make it into the 90’s. You’re not going to make it otherwise,” Dr. David Freilich said.
The doctor says social interaction is key. Shapiro gets plenty of that, even though he lives by himself for six years now since the death of his wife.
“I like to be busy. I like to be active. I like being with people,” Shapiro said.
He is loved too, for graciously sharing the gift of music with so much heart. It’s the best therapy for his audience and for himself.
Shapiro was a guest of honor at Sunday’s gathering of patients of Cardiology Associates of Morristown aged 90 and above.