The violin Elaine Badershall’s uncle gave her when she was a girl spent the last half of the last century abandoned in the Augusta home where she raised her family.

But after three months of careful restoration, the violin sprang back to life Tuesday night, bringing happy memories of the woman who once wanted so badly to play.

“I’m just blown away,” Badershall’s son, Roger E. Badershall, of Augusta, said after hearing the newly restored violin sweetly groan his mother’s favorite song, “Somewhere My Love.” “My mom was the coolest.”

Elaine Badershall, who died in December 2013 at the age of 78, spent much of her childhood listening to her uncle, Ralph Lane, play the violin. Badershall loved it so much, said her husband, Roger C. Badershall, that she vowed to her uncle that she, too, would one day learn to play the violin. The uncle, trying to help her keep the promise, gave his niece the violin when she was about 5 years old.

“She just played around with it,” her husband said.

The violin eventually was stored in the attic of the family home. When Elaine and Roger Badershall married, the violin was moved to the attic in their new Augusta home.


“It’s been in my attic since 1955,” Badershall said.

The violin, and the old wood case in which it was stored, went virtually unnoticed for the next 59 years until Roger C. Badershall was up in the attic last year. He noticed his mother’s violin and brought it down from the attic. Time, coupled with the extreme temperature variances in the attic, had not been kind to the instrument. Among a laundry list of small problems, though, was a neck broken off at the body that rendered the instrument unplayable.

“It was just a hunk of wood,” Badershall said. “It was something you’d throw away.”

But his son, Roger E. Badershall, hoped to try to make the violin sing again. He had no idea how to make that happen until he started telling the story to his friend, Mark Simpson, of Lewiston.

“He’s the reason this all came together,” Badershall said.

Simpson said he knew a man, Nate Saunders, of Fairfield, who built and repaired violins. Saunders, who offers the repair work as a side business, was intrigued by the challenge of trying to restore the instrument.


“It was a good challenge,” Saunders said.

He took possession of the violin around Thanksgiving and spent the next three months carefully bringing the instrument and its case back to life.

“It all boils down to slow handwork,” Saunders said. “One coat of varnish takes two weeks to dry. It’s my homemade varnish. The last month was putting two coats of varnish on.”

The Badershalls knew the violin was old, but nobody knew how old until Saunders removed the top plate to rebuild the neck. Inside he found a written inscription that indicated the violin had been built in Mittenwald, Germany, in 1850.

“When I opened this up, I felt like I was opening a time capsule,” Saunders said. “I was the first person to see this in 150 years.”

Saunders said if the bottom of a violin’s body is made with a single piece of wood, it is the sign of a quality instrument. The Badershalls’ violin not only had a bottom made with a single piece of wood, but also a top section made of a single piece of spruce.


“I’ve never seen a one-piece top,” he said. “It really has the makings of a great instrument.”

More than a dozen family members and friends turned out Tuesday at American Legion Fitzgerald-Cummings Post 2 in Augusta to see the transfer of the violin back to the family. After gasping at the instrument’s restored physical beauty, they gathered around Saunders, many shaking their heads in disbelief, as he made the violin sing for the first time in more than 60 years.

“Usually violins don’t get this kind of attention,” Saunders joked.

Elaine Badershall’s husband, Roger C. Badershall, said he never expected the violin to be restored to such beauty. He said he plans to keep it for a while, hoping to find people to play it, but eventually might pass it along to an artist who can make the most use of it.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” he said. “We were going to throw it away.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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