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After wife died, piano player’s fingers ’couldn’t get to the keys’

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Webster Furbert as a police officer in the 1950s (Photograph supplied)
Webster Furbert loves playing the piano (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Webster Furbert (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Webster Furbert (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Webster Furbert working with computers in Philadelphia in the 1970s (Photograph supplied)

For 63 years Webster and Cecilia Furbert shared a love of piano music.

Mr Furbert loved classical; his wife preferred hymns.

“After my wife died it seemed like my fingers just couldn’t get to the keys,” the 88-year-old said.

Slowly, with the support of friends and family, he is finding his way after the loss he suffered in February.

He now finds solace in playing the hymns his wife loved as well as favourites of his own such as Moonlight Sonata.

“I am able to practise much more now,” he said.

His parents, Leopold and Marjorie Furbert, would only allow him to play classical music in their home on My Lord’s Bay Lane, Hamilton Parish.

“My family didn’t want what they called ’worldly music’,” said Mr Furbert, whose favourite composers are Chopin and Bach, because “it is a bit tricky to play”.

As a child he dreamt of becoming a concert pianist but ultimately decided he needed to do something more practical.

In July 1953, at age 21, he joined the Bermuda Police Service and became the parish constable for Hamilton Parish and Smith’s. According to Mr Furbert, the only requirements were that you were fit, had good eyesight and all your limbs intact.

“We had to make some arrests sometimes, but it was easier then,” he said. “If I had a warrant for someone and I knew them, I would call the person up. I would say meet me before the magistrate at a certain time.

“I would present his case and say what I had to say. Those who showed up, usually, never got in trouble again. It was usually for debt.

“It was easier making arrests in those days. Once I made an arrest in a crowd of people. I just went in and grabbed the guy and warned the others not to intervene. You couldn’t do that today.”

He and his wife met as children.

“She was from Somerset and I was from Crawl, but the families used to gather at Crawl during Cup Match church conferences,” he said.

They attended Berkeley Institute together, and started dating at 15.

They were married on June 30, 1955 and had five children: Gloria Burgess, twins Myron and Carmen and Wendell and Brian.

Carmen died at birth, a source of great sadness to the couple.

“The doctors didn’t know my wife was having twins,” Mr Furbert said. “I think the delay in getting the baby out was too long and she didn’t make it.”

While working as an officer he began to regret that he’d left high school a year early and decided to go abroad to continue his education.

First, he built a house near his parents and other members of his family.

“I wasn’t sure if things would work out when I went abroad,” he said. “So I wanted to have a house for us in Bermuda.”

In 1964, he put it up for rent and moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York.

“Initially, I went to study piano tuning,” he said. “I was able to start a tuning business for myself in Brooklyn.

“I always had my piano tuning tools with me wherever I went. Often if I visited a church I’d tune their piano for them for free. I still tune my own piano.”

But he found crouching down to tune pianos a bit demanding physically and after two years went back to school to study computer programming, an emerging field at that time.

“I worked for Pfizer, the company that is making the coronavirus vaccine,” said Mr Furbert, who does not own a computer and insists he would not know how to use one if he tried.

“I started on a Sperry Univac. It used to take up the whole room. Now computers use less space and have more memory.”

As he did not think Brooklyn was a good place to raise his children he moved to Germantown, Philadelphia and found a job with an insurance company, General Accident.

“The computer department in the 1970s occasionally used punch cards for data storage, but mainly worked with tapes,” Mr Furbert said. “After 20 months I was promoted to supervisor.

“It was a good company. Whenever we made a mistake the guys would joke that was a ‘general accident’. I enjoyed working with computers. It was challenging. I had to take frequent courses to stay abreast because everything changed so fast.”

He continued to play the piano and often performed for his church, the Germantown Christian Assembly.

The family returned to Bermuda in 1986. For years, Mr Furbert worked as a security guard for the Southampton Princess Hotel, Safe Guard Security, and L F Wade International Airport. In 2005 he learnt he had prostate cancer.

When surgery did not work, he was sent to Toronto, Canada for radiation treatment at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

“I didn’t have a hard time with the treatment,” he said. “I was able to get off the table to walk back to the hotel where we were staying. God is good. I am grateful to be alive.”

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 09, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 09, 2020 at 9:09 am)

After wife died, piano player’s fingers ’couldn’t get to the keys’

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