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RPO Volunteer Usher Extraordinare

Ginny Wilterdink says music and nature continue to nourish her at 100 years old.
Brenda Tremblay
Ginny Wilterdink says music and nature continue to nourish her at 100 years old.

Ginny Wilterdink, a long-time volunteer usher for the RPO, will share the spotlight with the orchestra onstage.

Ginny Wilterdink would be happy to welcome you to Eastman Theatre for an RPO concert. Stationed in the mezzanine, she might point out George Eastman’s original seat or encourage you to explore Kodak Hall and take in the Art Deco splendor. “When I first came here to work,” she said, “I used to wander all through this building because it's so beautiful.”

Ginny resembles a hummingbird. She has a slight frame, quick manners, and fluffy white hair. She thrums with energy.

Her enthusiasm for music began early, when she was a kid growing up in rural Maine. In the woods she developed a love of nature and for nurturing others.

When she was about four, she remembered, her mother got sick. “My mother was in the hospital in Calais, Maine, and my dad took me to the hospital to see her.” There she saw young women wearing little white hats, white dresses, shoes and stockings. “I was a little country girl,” she said, “and I became in love with nurses.”

After high school. Ginny attended nursing school and earned a degree just in time to enlist in the Army Nurse Corps. She remembers cheering when the war ended in Europe while sailing for the Philippines during World War II. She recalled, “We had this big celebration, singing songs on the upper deck of a huge ship going to Manila in preparation for invading Japan.”

After the war in the Pacific ended, her nursing skills led her on one extraordinary adventure after another, from serving as an attendant aboard early propeller-driven airliners to founding a preschool in Penfield in the 1950s. After she retired from a long career in nursing, Ginny’s expertise landed her in Eastman Theatre. For three decades she has served as an usher for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestraconcerts.

At first, Ginny says, she was employed as both an usher and a nurse. When the RPO contracted with a professional ambulance service in cases of emergencies, she pivoted to being an usher and now relishes the chance to enjoy the music with everyone else.

Her favorite composer is Beethoven.

This weekend Ginny Wilterdink will walk onstage for a special citation. The RPO plans to recognize her for her 100th birthday.

Ginny thinks she knows the secrets to her longevity.

“I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for music,” she said in a recent interview. “Do you think that's true of all of us? I mean, we need music. You heard my radio. That's WXXI that I have on a lot. And the RPO of course, is one of the reasons why I've lived so long.”


She also credits nature as a life-giving force.

Ginny will celebrate her actual 100th birthday on October 13th. In addition to her night in the spotlight at the RPO, she’ll also be honored by the Master Gardeners of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County. They’re planting a special tree in Highland Park near the Poet’s Garden. That’s another place, Ginny said, that inspires her passion for life.

Brenda Tremblay has served as weekday morning host on WXXI Classical since 2009.