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Rural Missouri Magazine

Blind Boone Park
Warrensburg, Mo.

by Heather Berry

Created by Ai Qiu Hopen, this unique metal sculpture of John William "Blind" Boone is the centerpiece of a park named for the musician in Warrensburg, Mo.

John William “Blind” Boone was born at a federal Army camp near Miami, Mo., in 1864. His mother was a runaway slave and had taken refuge with the Union Army as a cook. His father was the regiment’s bugler.

Shortly after Boone was born, his mother moved to the west-central town of Warrensburg where she earned a living as a housekeeper for many prominent families.

When Boone was 6 years old, he became ill with what they called “brain fever.” Only a radical surgical procedure to remove pressure from the swelling offered a chance to save the child’s life — but the surgery would leave him sightless.

Boone grew up to be an intelligent child and proved to be musically gifted. The city leaders paid for the boy to attend the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis for a few years where he quickly demonstrated his ability to reproduce on the piano any musical piece he heard.

From 1880 through 1915, “Blind Boone,” as he was known, played an average of six concerts per week, playing mainly at churches and concert halls. Besides a classical repertoire, he played plantation melodies, religious songs and ragtime, which Boone loved.

The musical prodigy died of a heart attack on Oct. 4, 1927, but not before becoming one of the most prolific African-American performers in Missouri’s history.

The statue on the cover is the centerpiece of Blind Boone Park in Warrensburg and a tribute to the piano man. More than 3,000 volunteers have helped create this tribute memorializing Boone. The unique metal sculpture, created by Ai Qiu Hopen, was designed to be touched. The park also includes a scent garden, a wind harp created by artist Ron Konzac and interpretive signs which are in both audio and Braille.

For more information about Blind Boone Park, go to www.blindboonepark.org or call 660-747-3268.

 

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