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The original item was published from 11/22/2023 3:16:00 PM to 11/22/2023 3:17:02 PM.

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Posted on: November 22, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Middleton's Man Wins Award

Robert in suit on piano

Monday, December 4 at 10:30 a.m. at the Middleton Senior Center, Robert (Bob) Auerbach will receive the 2023 AARP’s Andrus Award for Community Service. The Wisconsin AARP will host a celebration with cake in the main activity room, with Robert and musician Patricia Stone performing their monthly sing-along at 11:00 a.m.

(text/story courtesy of NBC 15 - Nick Vivani) 

MIDDLETON, Wis. (WMTV) – A Middleton man who is known for giving back to his community in ways big and small will be awarded AARP Wisconsin’s top volunteer award, the Andrus Award.

Bob Auerbach earned the nickname ‘The Piano Man’ because he goes from senior center to senior center playing for residents. Auerbach began playing the retirement centers and assisted living facilities in 2012 after his wife of 62 years died, AARP explained. The 94-year-old man turned his grief into music and plays for the residents, many of whom have cognitive impairments, many of the hits from their younger days, often getting them to sing along.

“He has displayed courage throughout his life, first as a Holocaust survivor and refugee and later as a widower trying to create a meaningful life despite his grief,” his daughter Emily said. “He works tirelessly to make life better for others.”

Auerbach’s piano playing is just one way he helps those around him. His daughter Emily recounted how his 90th birthday was not about getting gifts, it was about giving one, a six-digit gift that ended up being worth even more. He offered $100,000 as a match to the UW Odessey Project, Emily explained.

That generosity multiplied after it earned him the AFP-Madison outstanding philanthropist award, she continued. That award led to a news story about him, which inspired 400 people to donate their own money and raised $150,000 to fight poverty.

“He uses his talents and his life story not only to bring the joy of music to the elderly and disabled, but also as a way to raise money for charity,” added Emily, who nominated her father for the AARP award.

AARP described its Andrus Award for Community Service as the non-profit organization’s most prestigious and visible statewide award for volunteering.

“Having been a proud member of AARP for almost half a century, I am particularly honored and humbled to receive this award,” Auerbach said.

The award comes with a $1,000 donation from AARP to the organization of the recipient’s choosing. This year, the entire prize will go to the UW Odessey Project, which the agency described as one Emily launched and will end up as part of a campaign that will be part of a million-dollar match sponsored by two local philanthropists.

“Bob clearly goes above and beyond the definition of the word volunteer,” AARP Wisconsin State Director Martha Cranley said. “He serves as an inspiring example of the phrase ‘service before self.’ He is committed to doing whatever he can every single day to make life better for those around him. Bob is truly one in a million.”

Auerbach will receive the honor during a ceremony on Monday, Dec. 4, at the Middleton Senior Center, AARP noted. And, not one to miss a chance to pay it forward, he’s bringing his piano!

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