breaking news

Teacher accused of telling student ‘go back to Mexico’ is put on leave

Hurricane Harvey: Swan Songs musicians sing to nursing home evacuees


Myrtle Wendell rests in the bed of a Bee Cave nursing home tapping her hands to the music of “Take These Chains From My Heart” by Hank Williams. At times she closes her eyes or tries to sing along softly.

Austin singer Susanna Van Tassel and guitar player Marvin Dykhuis sit in chairs at the foot of her bed and fill the room with music — more Hank Williams, some Loretta Lynn, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Ernest Tubb songs. Wendell’s roommate, Sandy Peterson, sits up in bed with a big smile on her face.

In the hallway, fellow residents and staff members peek in to listen to the music.

This is Swan Songs, a local program that since 2005 has provided more than 525 concerts to people receiving hospice care.

The concert for Wendell was like many other Swan Songs’ concerts: sweet and intimate with music that the recipient or the recipient’s family chooses, but unlike other recipients, Wendell and her roommate Peterson, aren’t from here. They and 93 other residents of a Rockport nursing home were brought by bus or ambulance Aug. 24 along with staff members as evacuees from Hurricane Harvey. They left with very little, and they don’t know when they will return.

“It was rough,” Peterson says. “We stopped every three minutes” to check the roads ahead.

They all came to Park Manor skilled nursing facility in Bee Cave. The staff there turned living rooms into bedrooms, doubled up residents in bedrooms and filled three hallway wings with evacuees. The staffers, evacuees themselves, who came with them initially had to sleep on couches or in chairs. They since have relocated to hotels. Some of the residents have family members nearby, but many do not.

Since the initial evacuation, about half of the Rockport residents have been moved to other facilities in the area.

RELATED: Hospitals take in Hurricane Harvey evacuees

Wendell, who has trouble talking, said at the end of the concert, “I’ve enjoyed everything.”

“Thank you so much. It means a lot to me to be here with you ladies,” said Van Tassel, who was playing her first Swan Songs concert. “It’s an honor to be here.”

It was the first time Van Tassel and Dykhuis had played together. “I’ve got to book us some gigs,” Dykhuis said.

“You did great,” Wendell said.

Dykhuis has played about 30 Swan Songs concert. “It’s a wonderful experience,” he said. “The joy you bring to people, that music brings to people. It’s the music that really helps people out. It’s not me.”

“You just come along and lighten everybody’s days,” Peterson said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Austin police seek info from public on crash that killed mom, teen on U.S. 183
Austin police seek info from public on crash that killed mom, teen on U.S. 183

Austin police detectives are trying to piece together the events that led up to a head-on collision on U.S. 183 last Saturday that left two dead and two injured. Police said 41-year-old Guy Brasted was headed north in the 9400 block of Research Boulevard, a stretch of the highway where the north and southbound lanes are separated by steel cables, rather...
Sheriff’s summit aims to help churches focus on security measures
Sheriff’s summit aims to help churches focus on security measures

Law enforcement officials in Williamson County will be giving local churches information on how to protect their congregations during a security summit Sunday. The meeting comes in the wake of the deadly shooting during services Nov. 5 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, where a gunman killed 26 people and injured 20 more. Williamson...
BREAKING: State alcohol regulators investigating death of Texas State student
BREAKING: State alcohol regulators investigating death of Texas State student

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is investigating the death of a 20-year-old Texas State University student who was found dead on Monday after a fraternity event the night before. Sophomore Matthew Ellis was pronounced dead at 12:28 p.m. at the off-campus Millennium Apartments, according to San Marcos police. “This is an incredibly tragic...
NASA to launch JPSS-1 weather satellite Saturday morning
NASA to launch JPSS-1 weather satellite Saturday morning

NASA, in partnership with the NOAA, will launch a satellite Saturday that will help improve weather forecasts. The satellite launch was scheduled for earlier this week, but was postponed twice, once because of high winds and once because of technical difficulties. The launch for the JPSS-1 satellite is scheduled at 4:47 a.m. Saturday, according to...
You’ve got one more day to see Waller Creek’s ‘Creek Show.’ Here’s what you’ll miss if you pass
You’ve got one more day to see Waller Creek’s ‘Creek Show.’ Here’s what you’ll miss if you pass

Waller Creek is alight. But only for two more nights.  The Waller Creek Conservancy’s fourth annual “Creek Show” will light up downtown for the last night Saturday, and if you haven’t made your way out for a self-led tour yet, you’re missing quite a sight.  Check out some of the images of the show Instagram users...
More Stories