I know Ilse Steinhardt (2 November 1914—3 December 2010) only through her good friends Anita Herzfeld and Grant Goodman, who for some reason always included me in their dinner parties and birthday celebrations for Ilse. I was told that Ilse liked me, even though for many years she called me Jim instead of Paul. Once, when I finally decided to correct her, she said, “Funny, but you look like a Jim to me. I’ve always loved people named Jim. But Paul is very nice too.” From then on, she never called me Jim again, but I often wondered if I ought not to have changed my name to Jim. After all, James was one of the Twelve Apostles, and Paul wasn’t.
At one of her birthday parties at Alvamar Country Club a couple of years ago, all the guests were asked to say a few words about Ilse. Many spoke about what a terrific cook she was, what fine and elegant dinner parties she gave, her wonderful sense of humor, her love of music, and above all her skill at the piano. When it came to my turn, I really did not know what else to add to what everyone had already said, so I simply said, “Like all the pianos that she plays so wonderfully, Ilse is both upright and grand.” The guests liked this a lot, and they have now repeated the line many times, at succeeding birthday parties, and then again by Betty Baron at the brief remembrance celebration of Ilse’s life which was held at the Unitarian Fellowship in Lawrence, KS on Friday 10 December 2010.
Of the many beautiful melodies I’ve heard Ilse play on the piano through the years, the one I remember best is “When I Grow Too Old To Dream.” Even at age 96, Ilse never grew too old to dream, and I hope I never do either.