Danville singers deliver melodious messages, smiles to area sweeties

DANVILLE — Paul Ziebert is sitting at the dining room table, listening to the afternoon farm report.

Jennie Richey, his late wife's caregiver, and now his, is doing the dishes in the kitchen.

It's Valentine's Day, and Ziebert is wearing the red button-down shirt Richey bought him the previous day. He decided to pair it with his light blue paisley tie. Normally, Ziebert wouldn't be sitting around the house in a tie on a weekday. He knows something's up today; he's just not sure what.

Richey's wearing red, too, a blouse she picked out to wear specifically because it's Valentine's Day. She fixed a special lunch for Ziebert and chocolate-covered strawberries, which he noticed her putting in the refrigerator. Maybe they'll eat them later?

The last few months have been rough for Ziebert, dealing with two surgeries and the loss of his wife, who suffered from dementia for several years. Richey, a family friend in the nursing field, took care of his wife at the Zieberts' North Gilbert Street home, allowing him to continue working their farm in Indiana.

The front doorbell rings, and Richey walks away from the dishes to answer it, but suddenly asks Ziebert to get the door.

"My hands are wet," she says.

Now he knows something's up, but he still doesn't know what to think.

He opens the door to find his front porch filled with ladies in matching blue suits. Each has one lapel covered in red sequins and the other pinned with a red heart. Five singers from the Danville Show Chorus of Sweet Adelines tell him they're delivering him a singing valentine message.

He knows Jennie arranged this.

Smiling, and a little embarrassed, Ziebert invites them in, walks to the living room and sits in his sofa chair, the one with the John Deere blanket draped over the side.

Jennie grabs her camera and starts snapping pictures as the five singers assemble in front of Ziebert and sing in harmony, "What Would I Do Without You." Ziebert sits quietly, listening to the words with a slight grin on his face.

He has seen the Sweet Adelines perform before and loves their singing. His wife was a singer. She liked it when Jennie would sing to her while doing the dishes.

Ziebert thought once about arranging a Sweet Adelines singing valentine for his wife, but her illness was advanced enough that he decided she couldn't appreciate it.

He appreciates this singing valentine, and Jennie's attempt to lift his spirits. He says it worked.

"Beautiful, ladies," Jennie says after the singers finish their song and promptly head for the front door and their next singing-valentine appointment. They deliver one every 15 minutes, and Ziebert's house was one stop out of more than 40 they're making this Valentine's Day. Their tour started at 7 a.m. in Danville and won't end until 8 p.m., taking them all over Danville and beyond, from Hoopeston to Georgetown, even Covington, Ind., twice.

Jennie quickly offers them the chocolate-covered strawberries and goodie bags as they head back out the front door to the mini van, pile in and buzz across town to Dawson Logistics, where they sing to one of the employees, a pleasantly surprised Maria Vargas, whose fiance sent her the valentine.

One of the singers, Maureen Hinkle, says the Sweet Adelines have been delivering singing valentines for more than 30 years. She has done it for at least 25, and they love it, she says. The group has no problem getting enough of them to volunteer a day off from work or their own Valentine's Day plans.

"It's just so much fun," she says.

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