Piano teacherCapitola Dickerson

A musician, Dickerson attended Columbia University and the Juilliard School of Music, and then turned her attention to teaching. For 78 years, she taught piano to students in Summit, New Jersey — thousands of children, including kids at a school for the hearing impaired. In her spare time, she worked to promote civil rights, and helped push through Summit’s first affordable housing project. Last fall, she reported to a shelter the Red Cross set up for those who lost power during a snow storm. “She spent the night at the shelter, but she was busy calling people and checking on them,” says Jordan Glatt, who was Summit’s mayor at the time. “She was 98 and she was calling to check on her neighbors, instead of the other way around. That’s just the kind of person she was.” Dickerson, who went by “Cappie”, wrote this as her philosophy of life a year before she died: “Did I do the right thing today? Did I say the right thing when people needed it? Just because I’m 97 doesn’t make me wiser. What it makes me know is that I have to work harder to know what people need from me. That’s my prayer.” She died in Summit on June 15, at 98.

From This is True for 17 June 2012