A virtuoso in the performance of life

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Floyd Hershberger. (McCook Community Foundation photo)

A virtuoso is defined as a person with notable technical skill in the performance of music. If there is a similar term to describe a person with notable skill in the performance of life, it would certainly be used to describe Floyd Hershberger.

If not for the fact that he had a slight colorblindness, McCook may have never had the outstanding good fortune of becoming home to one of its strongest community leaders. He was turned down by the U.S. Air Force due to the colorblindness, so he pursued a music education degree. In 1954, he moved to McCook with his wife, Joyce. He was hired by McCook Public Schools Superintendent Ralph Brooks to become a vocal teacher in both the high school and McCook Junior College. McCook and the surrounding area have been blessed by his presence for the last 56 years.

Floyd passed away Monday, but the crescendo of contributions he has bestowed upon the community will be with us for many generations to come.

Most know him as the founder of Hershberger Piano and Organ Company, which he established in 1956. He describes his start in the business in a video on the web site for the National Association of Music Merchants (http://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/floyd-hershberger). He started out by selling pianos for the father of one of his students who owned a furniture store. His love of music, as well as his engaging personality and skilled salesmanship, helped him to develop the business into the complete music store it is today located at 202 West 1st Street. His son, Brad, continues to operate the business.

Floyd's venture into the business world was only a prelude to the many other civic contributions he would make throughout his lifetime. He was one of the original incorporators of the McCook Arts Council, Director of the Choir at the Congregational Church, first chairman of the original Lied Main Street organization, active with the McCook Concert Association, and served on the School Board of Education. Floyd and his wife, Joyce, were honored by the McCook Chamber of Commerce as the 2003 Heritage Days Honor Family.

He was a past President of the McCook Rotary Club, and led the group in music at their weekly meetings for many years. In 2002, Floyd attended the Rotary International's annual convention in Barcelona, Spain.

Floyd was master of making lemon-aide from lemons. In 1997, Princeton sociology professors, Frank and Deborah Popper, infuriated this area by suggesting that it should be turned to prairie land and labeled "Buffalo Commons." Floyd, the savvy marketer, suggested that the community should capitalize on all the publicity generated by the demeaning name, so the Buffalo Commons Storytelling Festival was titled.

Floyd was the maestro behind the formation of the McCook Community Foundation in 2000, when he sensed that the area could benefit from a community-wide charity that had the flexibility to benefit other local charitable organizations and help fund local projects for which no organization or fund currently existed. With gusoto, Floyd met with other community leaders, including Doug Skiles, Stan Goodwin, Van Korell and Mark Graff, pitching his idea and orchestrating the affiliation with the Nebraska Community Foundation. The fledgling organization which began in 2000, has been able to award more than $20,000 in grants to various local organizations each year since 2004. Those gifts to the community will continue indefinitely. Skiles said of Floyd, "He always lived life like he was playing a piece of music, with lots of energy, gusto, and bravado."

In 2004, Floyd and Lloyd Benjamin purchased the historic Fox Theatre building in downtown McCook with the goal of turning it into a community center for the visual and performing arts. Floyd was dedicated to preserving the Fox's acoustical integrity. The two placed the ownership in the hands of a non-profit corporation called the Alliance for the Encouragement of the Visual and Performing Arts, and the building continues to host live entertainment even as renovations proceed.

For a life-long symphony of service, conducted with love and passion, the community is on its feet with a standing ovation.

Bravo, Floyd, Bravo!

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  • Thank you Gazette. May I add my AMEN to your words. Mr. Hershberger was a God-Send in my ability to sing. He gave me lessons, for a while, in High School. He will be missed, here in mortality, but I believe he will be in the welcoming committee, when we all graduate Home.

    Thanks again for your kind words. You said what I would want to say.

    Arley Steinhour

    -- Posted by Navyblue on Thu, Mar 10, 2011, at 4:03 PM
  • what a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to a true gentleman. RIP.

    -- Posted by mommily on Thu, Mar 10, 2011, at 8:16 PM
  • Thank you so much for this wonderful editorial about my father. As the person above said, it is a beautiful tribute to his life.

    -- Posted by bonpayne on Thu, Mar 10, 2011, at 9:02 PM
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