LEWISTON — When he was 6, George Morrissette knew he wanted to be a doctor. At 10 years old, he knew he wanted to play the piano.

He has seen thousands of local patients in a nearly 40-year career at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, and now at age 77, he’s still at the keys.

Growing up in Augusta, the family doctor made a big impression on Morrissette.

“He’d do house calls and everything back then,” he said. “I never thought I could be (a doctor), but that’s what I wanted to be, if I could.”

Morrissette laughs thinking back at the impression his being a doctor apparently made on his son.

When son Greg was 6, “a patient of mine happened to notice us and said, ‘Oh, is this your son, Greg?'” recalled Morrissette. “‘Greg, what do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to be a doctor like your dad?’ He looks up at me, ‘Dad, am I smart enough not to be a doctor?'”

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He and the patient cracked up. Greg became a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Daughter Maria works in real estate.

Morrissette came to St. Mary’s early in his career in 1973. He specialized in internal medicine, seeing adults as a general practitioner and covering calls in the emergency room.

“It was all-involving, to say the least,” he said. “I enjoyed the patients. I enjoyed the art of medicine, not the science, but the art — sort of playing Sherlock Holmes, connecting the dots, and not jumping to conclusions. You have to keep an open mind when you’re in a clinical situation. The more you know, the less you’re sure of.”

He saw several generations of entire families for decades before retiring at 70 and now rarely goes out without being stopped for a hello.

Morrissette picked up the piano at age 10, mowing lawns, picking beans and raking blueberries to help pay for lessons.

“I just kept it up; I never really gave it up,” he said. “I always found a piano someplace, or an organ. Even when I was in Vietnam (where he was a U.S. Army doctor), there was a chapel with an organ there. When I had a chance in the late afternoon, that’s where I’d go.”

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For a long time, he’d perform two to three recitals a year in his Lewiston living room for family and friends. 

“I really like the hard, classical stuff, not that it comes easy to me,” he said.

He’s twice played Trinity Church during its weekly Oasis of Music Wednesdays and he’s working on a 30-minute piece now, three movements by Robert Schumann called “The Fantasie in C Major,” that he’s hoping to play there later this winter.

“It’s sort of a double-edged sword,” he said. “You look forward to entertaining people and informing them about what you know about the music, realizing that you’re an amateur and you’re going to make mistakes, so no one expects a professional experience.” 

Morrissette has arthritis in his hands and also has macular degeneration that can make the notes on the pages in front of him hard to see, but he keeps at it, playing most days with wife, Claire, as his audience.

It keeps him focused, relieves stress and gets him out meeting new people, he said.

“The thing I’ve noticed as time goes on, maybe I’m wrong, I don’t think kids are playing music, creating music (as much these days),” Morrissette said. “They’re listening to music, if you can call it that. I think it does so much to channel their energies and to focus, mentally, and it broadens your understanding so much. If you’re into art or music or something, you feel better about yourself, that old self-esteem.”

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George Morrissette smiles from behind the piano on his 77th birthday. Morrissette paid for his own piano lessons when he started them at age 10. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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