Melba Shank learned to play the piano almost 90 years ago. Her mother insisted on it. The very piano she learned on when she was nine years old still sits in her home.
"Every day I play somehow or other," said Melba Shank.
Born and raised in Hawkeye, Melba's first job was teaching students in a one-room country school when she was just 18 years old.
Nearly 30 years later, she got her formal teaching degree from Upper Iowa University. Teaching and piano playing have always been part of her life.
"That's my forte. That's what keeps me going," said Melba Shank.
On special occasions, the 97-year-old plays at Zion Lutheran Church in Waterloo.
"Thank goodness people here in church welcome me every now and then to come and play," she said.
Shank joined the congregation back in 1953. She helped out as a Sunday School teacher and as the accompanist for the children's choir. During that time, Shank worked closely with choir director Kathy Jones. The ladies also worked together at Dunkerton Schools before Shank retired from teaching in 1979.
"She's just a gem here. She's always cheerful and makes you feel great," said Kathy Jones.
Kathy Jones said what makes Melba Shank's piano playing even more special is that she never uses sheet music. Shank plays everything by ear.
"She brings tears to people's eyes because it's all from her heart," said Jones.
The congregation just listens as Melba plays a medley of songs. Besides being a gifted piano player, congregation members said Melba Shank is simply an incredible person.
"You always feel better after visiting with Melba," said Kathy Jones.
Shank said she's always tried to live a good life through her belief in Christ. In fact, she had perfect attendance for all 15 years she attended Sunday School growing up.
Melba's husband, Edwin, died in 2003. She has one daughter, two granddaughters and six great grandchildren.