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Sally-Ann Roberts / Eyewitness News
Email: sroberts@wwltv.com |

NEW ORLEANS -- The philosopher Plato said music gives wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life.

The theologian Martin Luther said beautiful music is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.

Lionel Ferbos was a man with such a gift. His trumpet music charmed audiences from around the world, but even more than the horn he played, Mr. Ferbos will be remembered for the heart he shared.

When asked what his greatest hope at 100-years-old was, Ferbos simply replies while letting out a few laughs, that he'd like to be able to eat his dinner.

Lionel Ferbos was not only eating cake on his centennial birthday in 2011, but at the age of 100 he was still playing the trumpet at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe on Decatur Street every Saturday night.

He told Sally-Ann Roberts then he had far exceeded his doctor's prognosis.

'I was always ill, I had asthma and problems in every joint and I had about four or five operations and the doctor told me he said, you're doing alright but you aren't going to live too long, and so that was when I was round about fifty,' said Ferbos.

Half a century later Mr. Ferbos was still going strong. He had come a long way since the great depression, when he performed with the WPA Band. He had dozens of albums and CDs to his credit. A worn music case that he used during his travels with the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra throughout United States and Europe 77 years ago, still held his treasured mouthpiece.

Sally-Ann asked Ferbos what it was about playing the trumpet that he loved when he was up on stage performing before the audience and they're really feeling the music, to which he replied, 'The best part is the appreciation the audience has for it, that's the best part.'

The audience never tired of him but the frailty of age finally caught up with Ferbos.

'Things are winding up,' words that turned out to be prophetic.

Later that week, just two days after he celebrated his 103 birthday Lionel Ferbos, New Orleans oldest musician, passed away.

Many will pay tribute to him at his funeral Saturday, but fortunately he received many tributes throughout his life, and many notes from well wishers around the world who sent him birthday greetings, including one from President Obama and the First Lady.

And he got to hear the praises of those who knew him best, his family, who said that he will always be remembered as someone who greeted everyone he passed on the street as a friend.

'You're tipping your hat to those people and they don't even see you,' said granddaughter Mia Schexnayder-Davis. 'It doesn't matter, they don't have to see me...I see them,' replied Ferbos.

And how he loved his late wife Marguerite. The grandchildren say they never heard him disagree with his soul mate.

'To have an argument, it takes two people, so if I'm quiet, she'll be quiet.' 'And did you know, the entire time they were married, he would mail a Christmas, birthday, Valentine's Day card to the house, for her, every year...with a stamp on it,' says Schexnayder-Davis.

And that's how you stay married 75 years.

In our last interview, Mr.Ferbos said he had nothing complain about.

'I've had very good friends, and they've helped me see the world, given so much to me, so now I can give back to the younger people.

His great-granddaughter Leah Labat wrote in a poem dedicated to the man she called 'My Buddy,' 'like any musician, he had fame, fans and glamour. But this man had something more. He had compassion love and honor.'

Lionel Ferbos is survived by his daughter, 4 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren and a host of nieces and nephews.

Visitation is Friday night at the Charbonnet Labat Funeral Home from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and musical and family tributes start at 7 p.m. Saturday, visitation continues at 8 a.m. at Corpus Christi Epiphany Catholic Church, followed by the funeral mass at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

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