Vet Voices

‘Piano Pat,’ Montana Tiki bar entertainer for decades, dies

Patricia Sponheim, better known as Piano Pat, performs on Jan. 31, 2018, at the Sip n Dip in Great Falls, Mont. Sponheim, who entertained crowds at a tiki bar in downtown Great Falls for more than 50 years, died Tuesday, May 4, 2021, according to a notice by Schneider Funeral Home. She was 86. (Rion Sanders/The Great Falls Tribune via AP)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Patricia Sponheim, known as “Piano Pat,” who entertained crowds at a Tiki bar in downtown Great Falls, Montana, for more than 50 years, has died. She was 86.

Sponheim died Tuesday, according to a notice by Schnider Funeral Home.

“It is with tremendously sad hearts that we tell you that our beloved Piano Pat passed away peacefully last night,” the Sip ’n Dip Lounge posted Wednesday on its Facebook page. “We loved her very, very much. Our hearts are broken. Rest In Peace beautiful music girl.”

Sponheim played organ and sang with guests as they drank tropical drinks out of fish bowls and watched women dressed as mermaids swimming in a pool through a glass wall behind the bar on the second floor of the O’Haire Motor Inn.

“We’ve got winners and losers, chainsmokers and boozers,” she would sing while playing Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar.”

“Sweet Caroline,” “Tiny Bubbles” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” were also favorites.

Sponheim began performing at the Sip ‘n Dip in 1963 — a year after it opened — and entertained generations of locals and tourists. She was one of the reasons GQ magazine in 2003 named the Sip ’n Dip the No. 1 bar on earth worth flying for.

Sandi Thares, owner and manager of the bar, told the Independent Record she would remember Sponheim for “how much love she had for us and for everyone she played for.”

She was more than a friend, Thares said. “She was like everyone’s mom or grandma around here.”

Sponheim had not played at the Sip ’n Dip since February 2020, citing COVID-19 concerns, Thares said.

Hundreds of people responded to the Sip ‘n Dip’s Facebook post about Sponheim’s death with sympathy, memories and tributes, some with photos and videos of “Piano Pat.”

Sponheim is survived by her children Danny Sponheim, Danelle Bell and Diana Jo Sponheim, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

___

This story corrects the spelling of Schnider in the 2nd paragraph.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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