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Arts & Culture

Montana Icon 'Piano Pat' Dies

A headshot of Patricia Sponheim wearing a red jacket.
Courtesy Backroads of Montana/Montana PBS
Patricia Sponheim, better known as Piano Pat, played at the Sip 'N' Dip's piano bar for more than 50 years. She died May 4, 2021.

Montana legend and musician Patricia Sponheim, also known as Piano Pat, passed away this week at age 86.

Sponheim worked as a medical transcriptionist while raising three kids, but was best known for her more than 50 years performing at the Sip ‘N Dip Lounge in Great Falls, where she played a plethora of songs and took plenty of requests.

News of her passing was posted on the O’Haire Motor Inn’s Facebook page Wednesday night.

"It is with very heavy hearts that we tell you that our beloved Piano Pat passed away peacefully yesterday. We loved her. Our hearts are broken. Rest In Peace beautiful Pat.”

Pat Spoonheim performs on a three-tired electric piano behind a wrap around bar.
Courtesy Backroads of Montana/Montana PBS
Piano Pat playing at the Sip 'n' Dip in Great Falls, Mont.

Sponheim and the Sip N’ Dip, a Tiki Bar with people dressed as mermaids swimming in the motel’s pool visible behind the bar, have been featured in a number of publications. Spoonheim had even been profiled on the Lifetime Network.

Sponheim got her start at the bar in 1963 when she was tapped to be a vacation fill in. The regular piano player never came back.

Sponheim had not played at the Sip N’ Dip since February 2020 citing COVID-19 concerns. Recently she had been convalescing at a rehabilitation facility in Great Falls following a fall in her home.

She was 86.

Thanks to Missoula-based freelance journalist Ann-Derrick Gaillot for sharing a recorded a phone conversation with Pat and to Backroads Montana/Montana PBS for the music.

Editor's note: Piano Pat's last name has been printed as both Sponheim and Spoonheim.
Schnider Funeral Home uses Sponheim. The Sip 'N' Dip agrees and tells us to pronounce it 'spoon.'