Obituary: Betty Jo Wareham-Sahler / Indiana County native who inspired a love of music in others

Died May 28, 2014


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It wasn't unusual for Betty Jo Wareham-Sahler to be singing in her Cheswick living room, where she and her late first husband, Duane, lived until their children went to college.

"I walked in the door one day and Billy Eckstine was singing with her," her daughter Wendy Wareham said, recalling that afternoon in 1972. "That was very normal at our house."

Ms. Wareham-Sahler died May 28 in Hanover, York County, where she moved to be close to her family, from complications due to Parkinson's. She was 88.

"She still had a piano and a drum pad in her room before she passed away," her daughter said.

Ms. Wareham-Sahler was born in Indiana, Pa., in 1925. She earned a degree in music education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and degrees in music education and musicology from Penn State and Carnegie Mellon universities. She met Duane at IUP and they married in 1949.

She went on to teach music in Cranberry, Venango County and New Kensington.

"My brother [Barry] went into music as well and both of her granddaughters. My brother and sister-in-law [Rebecca] also met at IUP in the music department," Ms. Wareham said. "You can't escape music in our family. It's pretty much in the blood."

A singer, musician, composer and a voice coach, Ms. Wareham-Sahler spent a great deal of her music career building the choral program at the Penn Hills School District.

"To us, it was just what she did, but she literally had thousands of students who still talk about the effect she had on their lives," Ms. Wareham said. "She had, at one point, several hundred students in her choir ... she had to break them into ensembles to fit them all in."

One of those students was choreographer Doug Bentz, who is a professor of dance at Point Park University. Mr. Bentz got to know Ms. Wareham-Sahler in the choir at Penn Hills.

"She was always so elegant and gorgeous with that silver streak in her hair and the red lips," Mr. Bentz said. "She was a beautiful woman. She commanded a lot of respect from her bearing, which was so elegant."

Ms. Wareham-Sahler was also the inspiration for a piece Mr. Bentz choreographed in 2003 to Gabriel Faure's Requiem in D minor.

"We sang it [in choir] and it was very emotional. Forward ahead to 2003 ... an image came to me based on some of the Inca findings they found in South America," Mr. Bentz said. "I kept seeing this image in my head of ghost dancers. We got talking in 2002 and she said, 'You know that Requiem for the Dead? You're going to do something to that.' "

Ms. Wareham-Sahler also volunteered with a music therapy organization, Recordings for Recovery. "She was using recordings to help people recover their speech after strokes. She went to conferences on the brain. She made quite an intensive study of it," Ms. Wareham said.

After Duane Wareham died in 1979, Ms. Warhem-Sahler married her second husband, Charles Sahler, in 1992; he died in 2012. She is survived by her children, Barry Wareham of Littlestown, Adams County, and Wendy Wareham of Pittsburgh; and two grandchildren.

Visitations will be held July 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. and July 12 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Burket-Truby Funeral Home in Oakmont. A memorial service will be held July 12 at 11 a.m.

Madasyn Czebiniak: mczebiniak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1269. Twitter: @PG_Czebiniak.



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