Written by Al Stover
Inside the Billings Clinic in Billings, a piano is locked and covered in a blanket with a picture on top.
Robinson was known for volunteering his time to play piano at the Billings Clinic and St. Vincent’s Hospital. He liked to be known as “Piano Man.”
According to his obituary, Robinson was born in June 1952 and was placed in an orphanage in Twin Bridges. He was adopted by Ruben and Agnes Baerg of Lustre, two weeks before his fourth birthday.
Eileen Traeholt is one of Robinson’s foster siblings. She said she “probably” had the closet relationship with Robinson and that he was always musical.”
“We would visit him off and on, whenever we went to Billings,” Traeholt said. “He would call me up and in his deep voice say ‘Hey Sis.’ He always called me ‘Sis.’”
Besides the piano, Robinson could also play accordion, clarinet and guitar. While he learned to read music at an early age, he could play music by ear. He also wrote and composed a lot of his own music.
Robinson also did a lot of volunteer work outside the hospital. According to Traeholt, he traveled on mission trips to Japan and provided music at various services. In an interview with the Billings Gazette, Robinson said he also played at senior centers, block parties and weddings.
“He always had his music,” Traeholt said. “Wherever he could find a piano, he would sit and play.”
In addition to playing instruments, Robinson also created beadwork, which he sold in several states.
Diana Hukak, who works at the Billings Clinic, said Robinson’s music filled the commons with beautiful music that touched the “hearts and souls of our patients.”
“Reno [Robinson] surprised a lot of people with his musical talent and opened peoples' hearts to how music can communicate and heal. He humbly transcended cultures and stereotypes,” Hukak said. “He was a gentle spirit who played from his heart with gifted hands.”
Hukak also said that Robinson’s piano playing had gained him many friends who appreciated him and the music he shared.
“We will miss his quiet, however playful laugh, the twinkle in his eyes, passing atomic fireball candy to us and the beautiful music he generously shared with all of us,” she said.
Traeholt said she thought what the clinic did with the piano was a “neat tribute” to her foster brother. Prior to Robinson’s death, she had been able to record him playing the piano.
Traeholt, who contributes to The Herald-News by writing the Lustre news, said when she writes about a death, she thinks of the cycle of life. During the burial service, Robinson was buried next to his older foster brother. Traeholt said she noticed that her older brother had died a month before Robinson was born.
“It brought back the idea of the circle of life and how one life ends and another begins,” Traeholt said. “God has a plan of us all.”
His obituary can be found on page six of this issue of The Herald-News.
Reno Frederick (Baerg) Robinson, 61, died Monday morning, Sept. 2, 2013, in Billings.
He was born June 25, 1952, to Lillian Shindler and Reno Red Boy. He was placed in the orphanage in Twin Bridges at a very young age. At the age of four, Ruben and Agnes Baerg of Lustre were granted permanent custody and he soon became a legal part of their family.
He truly loved life on the farm, playing in the sand box with the Tonka toys, learning how to ride bike, raising steers for 4-H projects and many other activities.
Music became a focal point early in life and many times would be seen kneeling on the piano bench plunking out a tune or strumming his guitar.
He grew up attending the Bethel Lustre Mennonite Church where he became a Christian, was baptized and joined. He attended the Lustre Grade School for the first eight years of his schooling and graduated from the Lustre Christian High School in 1970.
He attended the Native American Junior College Art School in Albuquerque, N.M., and then on to Denver for a short time. He returned to Great Falls and attended church. While attending church, he was given the chance to travel to Japan to play piano.
Over the course of his life, he also lived in Lame Deer, Great Falls and lastly in Billings. His love for the piano earned him the nickname “The Piano Man” and could often be heard volunteering his time playing at the Billings Clinic and St. Vincent’s Hospital.
His artistic abilities were used in creating beautiful beadwork items, which he sold in several surrounding states, thereby supplementing his income.
He is survived by his foster brother, Eugene Baerg; foster sisters, Karen Waller and Eileen Traeholt; son, Pernell Begs His Own; biological brothers and sisters, Jerry, Myrna, Judy, Sandra, Cecil and Margaret.
A graveside service was held Monday, Sept. 9, at the Bethel Lustre Mennonite Cemetery in Lustre. Clayton Stevenson Memorial Chapel of Wolf Point was entrusted with the arrangements.