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ORGANIST HISTORY --- June 23, 2013
by Alice Marie Gibson

I was asked to write a short history of how I got started playing at church.  We got an old upright piano when I was 9 years old and I started taking lessons soon after.  When I was about 11 or 12, Vera Nordgren asked me to play for Sunday School which I did for several years.  Pastor Stenholm was our pastor from 1957 to 1962 and it was during that time that Mrs. Stenholm showed me some things about our organ. I did take a few lessons for about six months from a lady in Westmoreland on the Westy Methodist electric organ.     

The first time I played for church I was 15 and I am now 65, it was communion, and it was Pastor Herb Johnson’s first Sunday.  Needless to say I was scared!  We were using the Service Book and Hymnal, the red book.  At that time, I was the substitute organist, Diane Nelson Lykins was organist and she asked me to play for her that Sunday.  I was the substitute organist from 1963 to 1965.  After that, I played full time for 5 years until we moved to California while Gregg’s ship was in dry dock for repairs at Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, San Francisco.  We lived there for almost 10 months.  Gregg’s ship was scheduled to go back to Viet Nam so he moved me back home.  When we moved to California, Sue Gibbs became the organist.  

After moving back home, I filled in part of the time as needed.  Pastor Ken and Dorothy Carmichael came in 1972 and Dorothy started playing for church sometime after that.  Just before Carmichael’s left in 1978, he took a vote of the congregation as to whether we wanted to get the new Lutheran Book of Worship, the green book we use today and the vote passed.  Carmichael’s left the first part of June 1978.  Later that same year Pastor John and Dana Chandler came.   In November 1978, Pastor Chandler, Dennis Nelson, and Gregg and I attended a workshop at Salem Lutheran Church, Axtell, as an introduction to the new green hymnal.   When Carmichael’s left in June 1978 I was asked by Dennis Nelson to be the organist again.  Since we lived in Manhattan, I said I would on a temporary basis until they could find someone else.  That temporary time turned into the last 35 years.  We finally moved to Olsburg in September 1986.

Some things I can remember that have happened is one time when a substitute pastor failed to show up for church, we had a hymn sing instead of a sermon.  There was one hymn that was selected that I had never played before.  Of course, it was Gregg that picked out the hymn! There were several other times that we had hymn sings when someone didn’t show up to lead the service.

In May 1986, we were in Wichita attending an adoption workshop and it was the same week as Jim and Diana’s wedding!  I missed the rehearsal on Friday night, and we hurried home so I could play for it on Saturday.

Pastor John and Ruth Gerike started their ministry with us on August 1st, 1988.  On Wednesday, August 3rd, we received the long awaited call from Lutheran Social Service, Wichita.  We were to go down the next day, August 4th, to get David.  The following Sunday, August 7th, was Pastor Gerike’s first Sunday, it was David’s first Sunday with us, and it was communion.  Also, to top it off the organ decided to have notes hanging on,  but this time the notes didn’t quit playing after a few seconds.  So, that Sunday I had to move to the piano to finish out the service.  We started using the “With One Voice” hymnal when Pastor Carpenter was here.

I’ve been trying to figure out how many church services I have played for over the last 50 years!  I think I have played for over 2,500 services including over 125 funerals, 22 weddings and Lent, Thanksgiving and Christmas services.  We have had 14 full time Pastors during the last 50 years and at least 19 either interim pastors or lay people who have led the services, and I’m sure there are more.  Following are names of those I could think of that have led services here that I have played for, including  –


Herb Johnson, Quentin Fleming, Kenneth Nelson, Ken Carmichael, John Chandler, Robert Segerhammar, John Gerike, Mike Peck, Shari Elwood, Jeff Carpenter, Marsa Terrell, and our present pastor Gordy and Sonja.


David Geischen, Lester Larson, Roland Lindahl, Lowell Gorseth, Charles Englund, Jane Thompson, Don Fallon, Patty Brown-Barnett, George Candea-Kromm, Ron Roschke, Keith Weins, Paul Olson, Milt Olson, Ralph Berggren, Larry Blue, Dennis Nelson, Bill Peterson, Aimee Truhe, and Erich Schwartz. 


Our music committee trades off with Walsburg on hymn selections.  At present we do two months and they do the next two months.  This practice was started when Pastor Chandler was here. The only time that I can remember when a pastor wanted to pick the hymns without the committees help was when Pastor Larry Blue was our interim pastor and he wanted to select all hymns.  Also, sometimes when Pastor Milton Olson was interim pastor, he would come on Sunday mornings and change the hymns to fit better with his sermon.    

As you know, Gregg has retired from his job after 40 years working for the City of Manhattan.  It seemed to us that it was the right time for me to retire as well, so January 4th, I gave Pastor Gordy my resignation letter.  With David and Catherine living 5 hours away, we want to be free to go see them.  Also, as many of you know, they are expecting our first grandchild December 2nd, Swedish Supper week!

I am looking forward to being able to sit with family during worship services and not have to think ahead as to what I have to play next.  It is my hope and prayer that you will be able to find someone on a permanent basis to play for church.  Thank you for letting me have the opportunity to play all these years.