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Eugene Hurkin, 95: Glenn Miller's 'In the Mood'

While playing "In the Mood," Eugene Hurkin used to dance with his children around their living room. He died at age 95 from COVID-19.
Courtesy of Ruth Adam
While playing "In the Mood," Eugene Hurkin used to dance with his children around their living room. He died at age 95 from COVID-19.

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.

My father, Eugene Hurkin of Brooklyn, N.Y., died at the age of 95 from COVID-19.

Born in 1925, my dad loved big-band swing — the music of his youth. He was a joyous and social partygoer and never shy to find a partner with whom to dance the night away.

On the evenings when my father went to formal events (I remember the smell of shaving cream and Old Spice cologne permeating the house), he would put on his tuxedo, bow tie and shiny black shoes. To me, he looked tall, handsome and larger than life.

Before heading out, my dad would play Glenn Miller's "In the Mood," and we danced the Lindy in the living room. My older sister, who loves to dance, asked to be taught the steps and was promptly greeted by our father's outstretched hand. They swung, dipped, and danced around the room as the record played. Everyone laughed and cheered until the song ended, and my father put on his hat to leave.

Many decades later, my father developed dementia. During the last of his 95 years, he lost the ability to clearly communicate with our family. Nonetheless, we talked to him about his former passions in hopes that these topics would stimulate his brain and bring back my father for even just a moment. I reminded him that he ran track at New Utrecht High School, that he had been a successful lawyer and that he was a long-time Boy Scout camp master.

During those final years, I caught a PBS program that explained how people with Alzheimer's disease are more alert after hearing music from their youth. The next day I sat beside my father's bed as he ate Chips Ahoy cookies — his favorite — and we listened to "In the Mood." I noticed his foot begin to tap and his head start bopping to the swinging rhythm. I asked if he remembered the song, and he smiled as he nodded quietly. Though he could no longer retell the stories of his youth, I hope the music unlocked a place in his mind where he was as young as the nights when we danced the Lindy.

Though my father was a quiet man, he had a big personality, good nature and a love of humor. Now that he's gone, the house seems deflated without the many hallmarks of his presence. Just like my father, my foot starts tapping when I hear Miller's band begin to play. The song reminds me not to take life too seriously and that sometimes you need to get up and dance. —Ruth Adam, daughter

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