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Love of music keeps me going says Dismont, 91

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Joan Dismont (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Joan Dismont playing the piano (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Joan Dismont as a young woman (Photograph supplied)
Joan Dismont at the Axa End-to-End last month (Photograph supplied)

Joan Dismont has always loved music.

Oldies like See You Later Alligator, When I Fall In Love and Unforgettable are among her favourites.

“I think my love for music might be one of the reasons I have led a long life,” she said. “Music is good for you. I also try to keep a good attitude.”

She will often sing a few bars of a song, or dance a little as the mood comes on her.

For her 91st birthday yesterday, her family surprised her with a private performance by Dennis Fox. He sang some of Ms Dismont’s favourites, and even gave her a little lesson in playing the piano.

“I just know a few little tunes on the piano and when I feel like it, I just go to my husband’s piano in the living room and play,” she said. “It cheers me up. I do my own thing.”

Over the years she’s been out there selling tags for a long list of charities; she’s also volunteered with Meals on Wheels.

Since 1988 she’s raised more than $70,000 for the Bermuda End-to-End.

In 1995 she became one of the charity’s Gold Club members, tasked with raising a minimum of $1000 every year. Eager to increase her annual pledge Ms Dismont quickly put on her “thinking cap”.

“I held a party,” she said, explaining how she hired musicians Toni Bari and Dennis Fox. “There were games and prizes. I charged admission, but that was all right because they got music and a nice meal.”

“The Bermuda End-to-End is very dear to me,” she said. “My involvement since its beginning has always brought me such joy knowing I was able to raise money to help others.”

Whatever the weather, she always took part in the walk; she often found herself encouraging others much younger than herself.

In 2004 she received the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for her years of community service.

In 2017 her efforts came to a sudden stop when she developed pneumonia following surgery at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

As Ms Dismont was treated in the ICU, her 13-year-old granddaughter, Nasya Burgess, took her part in the End-to-End.

“Doctors told us to prepare for the worst,” said her daughter, Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni.

As encouragement, she stuck a large picture of her mother participating in one of the End-to-Ends on the hospital room wall.

Ms Dismont improved and, while she has not been strong enough to participate in the annual event she has been as determined as ever to help.

This year she raised $1,000 by collecting donations. She also showed up on October 24 to lend her support.

“I just like helping people,” she said.

She grew up in the Cox’s Hill in Pembroke, the oldest of ten children. Her father, Everard Smith, was a mason and a well-known cricketer.

“My father’s friends called him ‘Bunny Wild Rabbit’ because his hair went everywhere,” Ms Dismont laughed.

Looking after the family kept her mother, Enith, very busy.

Around the age of 14, the Berkeley Institute student began organising concerts on her back porch with the neighbourhood children. Given that she was the oldest of such a big family, she had no problem marshalling them into order.

Years later, she took to the stage with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, the St John’s Church choir and the St James Stage Group.

In her early 20s she met her late husband Roy Dismont at a party, where he was entertaining the crowd with the piano.

“I said, ’Gee, you play good,’” she said. “We got to talking.”

The couple married on June 21, 1951.

“I was determined to be a June bride,” she said. “And I was.”

Ms Dismont took secretarial courses and helped her husband run Dismont & Robinson on Front Street East.

They had four children: the late Roy Jr, Ms Frazzoni, Sonia Burgess and Kari White.

Mr Dismont died in 1985; his piano still has pride of place in the family living room.

Throughout the pandemic, Ms Dismont has been shielded. Save her journey out for the End-to-End trips to the doctor’s office are about as adventurous as she gets.

But she finds ways to amuse herself. Last week she took all the cards from a trivia game and started reading them to sharpen her mind.

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published December 10, 2020 at 8:57 am (Updated December 10, 2020 at 8:55 am)

Love of music keeps me going says Dismont, 91

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