By Charlotte Wilson
Don Sharpe, 65, a former Sheffield resident, is a retired pianist with sight and hearing difficulties who played on cruise ships around the world, in the Memphis Belle Orchestra and at celebratory events.
Don played at an anniversary event in Crystal Peaks, Sheffield to mark the 50-year anniversary of the ending of the Second World War.
“It felt great to be contacted and asked to play at events that marked such an important time in history,” Don says.
Because of Don’s career, he was unable to wear a wedding ring, so his wife got him a memorable gold chain.
“My wife says it’s just to remind me when my wedding anniversary is but of course I had that made because I couldn’t play with a ring on.”
Don played the electric organ with some famous entertainment acts and musicians,
“I played alongside Paul Daniels, Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones. I was so very sad to hear of Paul’s recent passing. I knew him before he became famous and in later life.”
However, Don noticed as he was getting older that he was missing cues while playing. He got his hearing tested and that’s when he heard the news.
“The doctor said, ‘Don, if you don’t stop playing you will be deaf in two years.’ It wasn’t the volume of the music that I’d been around my entire life, it was the frequencies.
“The high frequencies were like drilling tiny holes in my ear drums.”
Don didn’t realise just how bad his hearing was until he didn’t wake up during a fire alarm one time and he got hit by a tram.
“That really upset when I got hit by the tram, the driver told me that he sounded his horn, and I told him that there was a fairground across the road and that I couldn’t make out where the horn came from.”
That was when Don decided to look into getting a hearing dog.
“That’s when I got Mitchell, in 2007. He is my best friend. He has to work 24/7, from waking me when my alarm goes off, to letting me know when my dinner is ready.
“He is different to a guide dog in that way, guide dogs don’t need to work in their owner’s home, whereas Mitchell needs to be on alert all the time. It always amazes me how clever he is.”