Father and son Ray and Dann Caldwell share the gift of music with Homeland

Ray and Dann Caldwell

Two generations of Caldwells – Ray and Dann Caldwell share much at Homeland Center.

Music has been a constant note through the lives of Ray and Dann Caldwell.

Ray is a resident of Homeland Center, and his son, Dann, is Homeland Hospice chaplain with an expanding array of responsibilities overseeing the spiritual wellness of Homeland residents. Father and son love to share their love of music, and each draws strength from Homeland’s nurturing community.

Ray grew up in the historic Northumberland County town of Sunbury, Pennsylvania. His father was a World War I veteran. His musically talented mother would sit at the family’s upright piano and play the old songs that his father loved.

“She would open the piano bench, and there all these songs were,” Ray remembers. “Dad would sit in the background and just love to hear them.”

Ray enjoyed singing in school choirs and playing baritone horn for school bands. That baritone horn emitted “a beautiful sound,” he says. “If I ever recommend a sound to a young person going into a band, the baritone horn is like a voice. It’s a beautiful range.”

After graduating from Susquehanna University with a degree in business administration, Ray came to Harrisburg to live with his mother’s cousin. He joined the Harrisburg Choral Society, lending the group his tenor II-baritone voice.

One day, Ray visited Derry Street United Methodist Church, recommended by a friend. There, he spied a fellow Harrisburg Choral Society singer, one with a clear, beautiful voice whose range spanned alto to soprano. He walked up to Betty Stauffer and said, “I know your face.”

“One thing led to another, and we got married,” Ray says.

Betty’s father cofounded Harrisburg’s Polyclinic Hospital, now part of UPMC Pinnacle. The young family lived in a leafy Harrisburg enclave called Riverside. Dann and his brother, Rick, sledded the hills and streets. The family enjoyed feeding the ducks at Italian Lake Park.

“It was an idyllic little neighborhood,” recalls Dann.

Ray had seen his uncle selling insurance, and it seemed like a needed service. As an insurance salesman, he specialized in helping the elderly “make sound and good decisions,” says Dann. “He had a very strong moral foundation for assisting people in making appropriate and reasonable decisions about insurance needs.”

Adds Ray: “That’s what insurance is all about. You don’t think you need it, and maybe you let it go because something else needs to be done. It’s the idea that you learn to put certain things in order in your life.”

Through it all, music was a constant. Dann and Rick sang in church. Ray and Betty sang in the choir and a gospel quartet. Often, the family sang as a quartet.

Even at Homeland, father and son have sung duets for chapel services. When Betty, a former Homeland resident, died in 2018, Dann found the sole recording of the Caldwell family singing together, with their favorite hymn, “Wayfaring Stranger.” They played it at her funeral, and then the congregation joined in singing a fourth verse, written by Dann.

“Music was my mother’s favorite thing, so it was about the music of heaven drawing one home,” he says.

For 30 years, Dann has pursued his “desire to serve,” earning divinity degrees from Princeton University, and charting a course of ministries with “a foot in the church, and a foot in the community.” Today, in addition to his Homeland work, he pastors Shopes United Methodist Church.

Since joining Homeland Hospice in 2013, Dann says he has met incredible people.

“It is a privilege to serve our patients and residents,’’ he says. “It is a privilege to hear their stories and experience a small portion of their challenges and joys the place where each one is in the midst of their spiritual journeys.”

Dann’s duties include planning programs and inviting speakers. In May, he organized a Holocaust Remembrance Day program that featured Lillian Rappaport, Holocaust educator for the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg.

“Our programs provide residents with opportunities to think and reflect morally and ethically and spiritually,’’ Dann says.

Dann sees Homeland’s commitment to quality of life reflected in his father’s experience.

“My dad certainly believes he’s well cared for, that people enjoy him, and he can enjoy them and have a good social life,’’ he says. “It’s a privilege for my father to live here, and it’ s a privilege and a blessing for me to serve the Homeland community.”

For his part, Ray appreciates the friendliness of the people.

“Homeland is a godsend,” he says. “Homeland is a beautiful treasure.”