Lilly Henric was raised by a single mother in El Paso, who also supported Lilly’s grandmother. At the age of six, Lilly heard someone playing piano and begged her mother for lessons—and her own piano. Her mother finally relented, and bought the piano making payments with a coupon book every month for three years.
That piano made a lot of moves over the years with Henric—to Mexico, back to El Paso, to Houston a couple of times, and finally to her home in Oak Hill. “I kept that coupon book in the piano bench because it embodied everything that my mother had done for me,” said Henric.
More than half a century later, Henric’s home and most of her belongings were destroyed last year in the April 17 fire. “I watched them take the piano out of my home and I gave up hope on it. It felt like a funeral home taking the body away.”
Henric, whose home was uninsured, put thoughts of the piano out of her head in the crazy aftermath of the fire. Amber Kubik—who along with Amy Harper and John Pfannkuche has been front and center in the rebuilding of Henric’s home—was there when the piano was pulled from the rubble. “Part of the roof had fallen on it. There were ashes and burn marks all over it and keys missing,” said Kubik.
Unbeknownst to Henric, Kubik’s friends Jeremy Bracken, Mike Dario, and John Momberger got together with Dario’s housemate Dustin Hill (who is a pianist and restores pianos as a hobby), and over the past year, the piano was taken completely apart and restored. Kubik herself sanded, stained and polished the wood.
On Sunday, April 29th, a little over a year later, Henric was getting set for a “Remembrance Day” gathering at Windmill Run Park—an afternoon of food, music and proclamations planned for the Scenic Brook and Windmill Run communities.
Gary Hunt, chairman of the Oak Hill Wildfire Relief Committee, called Henric that morning on the pretext of needing help with preparations related to the day’s festivities.
“Gary had me go to Jack Allen’s with him to check on the food. I couldn’t really figure out what he was talking about, but thought he was planning something special for Amber and Amy, and didn’t quite trust me with the secret,” said Henric.
Meanwhile, back at Henric’s house, five volunteers with Two Men and a Truck moving company are bringing the restored piano back to Lilly’s nearly restored home. Relief Committee co-chair Karon Rilling is trying out the piano. Kubik places lilies on top of the piano, and people gather to await the arrival of Hunt and Henric.
“As soon as I saw the moving van, I knew,” said Henric. The door was wide open and sounds of Rilling rocking out with Elvis Presley’s classic “Don’t Be Cruel” could be heard floating out to the walk.
“Lilly was crying and shaking when she walked in the door,” said Kubik.
“All I could get out was ‘you stinkers’!” said Henric. “They made it so special. It is just one more demonstration of how great this community is.”
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