Doctor turns to tunes after his retirement

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By Elizabeth Wilson

The word "retirement" can mean different things to different people. Take Dr. Lou Jensen, for example. He "retired" after a 34-year-career working at a medical clinic in Cocoa-Rockledge where he had spent a great deal of time treating space center employees. That was in 1988. Instead of taking life easy, though, he stayed active in his profession. He was often sent to different Florida cities to fill in where medical help was needed. He worked in clinics and nursing homes in a number of towns from the Panhandle to Lake City to Dowling Park. Finally, three years ago, he retired for good, rounding out a 55-year career in medicine.

Here in Williston you might meet Lou Jensen in a different capacity. If you're attending a public function and hear the sound of romantic pop tunes drifting through the air, it may be that same 87-year-old doctor at the keyboard. Chances are he will be playing with two violinists who share his passion for music.

Lou moved to Williston three years ago with his wife, Joy, a retired nurse anesthetist. He recalled that Joy attended a medical seminar in his home town of Minneapolis when she was a young nursing student. The couple met, married and has been together 62 years.

They moved to Williston to be close to their daughters, Heidi and Holly, who live nearby. Both daughters are nurses, Lou tells us, so he and Joy feel like they're in good hands in their retirement years.

The couple also has a son, Julian, who lives and works in Alaska, and six grown grandkids.

Music and medicine play big roles in Lou Jensen's family. His father was a doctor with the Veterans Administration in the VA's early days. His mother played piano and sang. Both Lou and his brother, a retired surgeon, had music lessons as children. Lou studied piano; his brother studied violin. His daughter, Heidi, sings and plays the guitar and is well known in the Williston area. A grandson is an accomplished jazz musician.

After the couple moved to Williston, they renovated a house near Devils Den which formerly was rental property. "It was built for people who went to Devil's Den Spring Dive Center and wanted to stay the weekend," Lou explained showing us how the house was divided into four small apartments with a common kitchen. Four bathrooms and lofts for young guests were part of the original floor plan. The Jensens added a living room and redesigned the apartments into comfortable living spaces for their own needs.

Once a week on Wednesday afternoons, two violinists from town, Fritz Junker and Wyeth Read, join Lou in his home for an afternoon of music. They specialize in romantic love songs but recently have begun to spend half of their time playing lively violin duets. The trio has played at nursing homes and weddings and recently at an art show in Williston.

Lou recalls that his love of music dates back to the '30s when he was a teen growing up in the midst of the big band era. His lessons were with a piano teacher but he also played tenor sax and clarinet in bands in high school and college. Piano remains his favorite because he can play it anytime even when he's alone. "I play piano every day of my life," he says and recommends that if you choose an instrument it should be one you can enjoy playing anytime even when you're alone.

As for retirement, Lou says that much of his time is spent doing ordinary things. "Music is the one thing I do," he says. The music he and his trio play recall a musical era "prior to 30 years ago." He says the old love songs are well received and often induce memories. "People love the old songs. Sometimes they sing along."

The piano and strings trio is ready to play anytime.

They just need to be asked.