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Piano's story ends on good note

Published Sep. 28, 2005

(ran East, Beach editions)

William Diehl needed to find a home for his wife's piano. Thursday, he enjoyed a concert by its new owners.

It wasn't quite the same as hearing his wife's piano, but Dr. William Diehl was pleased all the same as Kim, Kelly and Raidan Stiegel of Albany, Ga., serenaded Diehl on Thursday at the Music Gallery in Clearwater.

The children, whose mother, Holly Stiegel, was a former neighbor of Diehl, took turns playing classical pieces on a Steinway at the music store.

"It's wonderful to see how much the kids have improved," said Diehl, 97, who was brought to the Music Gallery by Holly Stiegel and her husband, Craig, and Mrs. Stiegel's mother, Joyce Huntley of Clearwater.

This is the second time that Diehl has been to a Stiegel family concert at the Music Gallery. The first was in April, when Kim, 15, Kelly, 11, and Raidan, 10, played on the Steinway on which Diehl's wife, Gladys, had played for about 40 years until her death in 1989.

The story of Diehl's former piano _ which Diehl said was purchased at the estate sale of famedswing musician Glenn Miller _ and how it got to the Stiegel family goes back to September 1999.

Although Gladys died more than 10 years ago, the retired U.S. Treasury employee couldn't bear to part with the piano. After all, his wife was a former concert pianist who played that piano every day, even after she stopped performing publicly.

Last year, Diehl decided to get rid of it.

After checking with his closest relatives and not getting any takers, he decided to ask his former neighbor, Holly Stiegel, whether she was interested in taking it.

"I was shocked," Mrs. Stiegel said Thursday. "I couldn't believe he wanted to give it to our family. He knew my children played music. And whenever I visited my parents, I would go over to his house and play the piano."

But the precious gift came with some strings: It would take months to rebuild it. So Diehl and the Stiegels contacted the Music Gallery, one of 79 dealers in the United States that sell and rebuild Steinways.

It wasn't cheap. Gladys Diehl's Steinway, which was built in Chicago in 1937, originally cost the Diehls about $2,000. But it was going to cost the Stiegels $15,000 to rebuild and restore the 6-foot-4-inch-long walnut piano. It cost another $600 to deliver it to the Stiegels' home in Albany, Ga.

As Diehl watched the Stiegel youngsters play Thursday, he clapped his approval and grinned.

"I know giving her piano to them is exactly what my wife, Gladys, would have wanted," he said. "She didn't want it to go into the hands of someone who wouldn't appreciate it."

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