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Austin Smiles with Vince Gill, Sister Gertrude and more

Michael Barnes

HEALTH: The stories never stopped. Consider this: An Austin Smiles scrub, while on a trip to Latin America to fix cleft lips and palates, says he knows Vince Gill. Ninety days later, Gill is performing an intimate, acoustic set at Austin Music Hall, raising enough money to pay for 480 procedures. Before the country superstar takes the stage with just his guitar, Texas songwriter Robert Frith tells tales in words and music. They are lucid, luminous stories, including an ode to his late brother, made more emotional because Frith’s mother and sister are in the house. He follows, however, with a song about shooting drivers that get in his way. It’s all in jest, but it pleases the crowd perhaps a little too much. Then Gill comes out. Plainly dressed, plainspoken, a little heavier than in his glory days, he sings like an angel. Yet it is his long, finely tuned stories, shared in between the songs, that settle on the mind. (Austin Smiles is very lucky to land this singular night.)

FAITH: Goodbye to Sister Gertrude. From Nicole Villalpando’s story in the Statesman: “When Sister Gertrude Levy walks the halls of Seton Medical Center, she doesn’t get very far before she has to stop. It’s not so this 94-year-old nun can rest. Instead, she’s found someone who looks lost and offers him directions. Or she’s noticed that a light in a hallway is out and enlists a volunteer to have it fixed. Or she’s seen a waist-high child and stops to say hello and get a high-five. Once she steps into the elevator, she turns to a man riding with her. “Do you have a patient here?” she asks. Yes, ma’am, I do, my wife.” “How’s she doing?” “She’s doing fine. She’s going home today.” And with that she offers a smile, reassuring words, and she’s on to the next task at hand. For more than 40 years, Sister Gertrude has walked the halls of Seton, offering help and reassurance and guiding the lay leadership of the hospital. “She’s everything to this hospital,” says Dianne Monroe, a cardiac nurse who has been with the hospital for more than 30 years. “She keeps us in line.” of my favorite people in Austin.)