Music from piano man at Mills House goes silent

File/Alan Hawes/STaff Dick Krauk, who played the piano in the Barbados Room at the Mills House Hotel for 40 years, died Wednesday. He was 77.

Dick Krauk, the longtime piano player in the lounge at Charleston’s Mills House Hotel on Meeting Street, died this week after a stay in the hospital. He was 77.

Krauk, of Hanahan, had been providing the entertainment for four decades in the hotel’s Barbados Room, playing songs from long ago six nights a week and twice every Sunday.

His last appearance was April 1, Palm Sunday.

“He had a great day,” said his daughter, Kimberly Krauk. But he began feeling ill later in the night and went in for surgery. He died Wednesday.

Some of his favorites included Frank Sinatra, George Gershwin and Broadway tunes. Part of the magic of his play was that he was nearly deaf and was partially blind, meaning he had to play largely from memory and feel.

Born in Baltimore, Krauk had been around pianos since the age of 5, learning from his father. He joined the Navy in 1953, and it became a habit to seek out pianos to play in various ports of call. Charleston later became his permanent home.

In 1971 Krauk started at the Mills House, playing ever since to local fans and celebrities, including Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, during their visits to Charleston.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at the James A. Dyal Funeral Home in Summerville. Burial will follow at Ravenel United Methodist Church Cemetery, Ravenel.