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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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APEL, Susan Marie

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Photo courtesy: Susan Marie Graas MCKEEVER/Nancy Welter
APEL, Susan Marie. (Dubuque, IA, May 15, 1890--Mar. 6, 1950). Susan, daughter of Peter APEL, played ragtime piano in various Dubuque bars and background piano for silent movies at the ORPHEUM THEATER. She married John Jacob Graas, Sr.

Susan's perfect pitch and her musical talent played significant roles in the lives of her sons. John GRAAS became one of the most significant French horn musicians of the twentieth century. When John began formal lessons on the horn, his mother baked two loaves of bread and sent it with him to help pay for his instruction; money was very short. Ferdinand DI TELLA helped to pay for a better French horn for the high school student to replace the one the boy had been using. Vincent GRAAS, another son, played all the reed instruments with the Wayne King orchestra for several years and toured with them. He also performed with LUKE RITZ AND HIS ORCHESTRA. Vincent went on to become an engineer. Both boys received additional musical training in the band sponsored by the DUBUQUE BOYS' CLUB directed by their mother's cousin, Vincent CHEWNING.

Susan Marie Apel. Photo courtesy: Susan Marie Graas MCKEEVER
According to Susan Marie Graas MCKEEVER, her grandmother was playing the piano ("Roll Out the Barrell") when she had her fatal stroke. Ironically her son, John GRAAS, died while playing his French horn.