Organist retires after 62 years

SANDUSKY Laura Stellhorn doesn't know what the big deal is. The 84-year-old retired S
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

SANDUSKY

Laura Stellhorn doesn't know what the big deal is.

The 84-year-old retired Sunday after 62 years as the organist at Zion Lutheran Church in Sandusky.

"Everybody seems wowed by that, but you just kind of play one Sunday after the next, after the next, after the next, and pretty soon the years have added up," Stellhorn said.

She began taking piano lessons in the third grade, and debuted as an organist at her father's church in rural Michigan when she was in eighth grade.

Stellhorn came to Sandusky to teach at Madison Elementary School, but it was chance that brought her to Zion.

While at East Harbor one summer afternoon in 1945, Stellhorn's sister overheard a conversation of the pastor saying he needed an organist.

Her sister put the two in contact and Stellhorn played her first Sunday on Sept. 2, 1945.

"That was one of those rare acts of God that brought me here," she said.

Stellhorn hopes her music has helped people express themselves and become closer to God.

"I hope I can give them a sense of praising God through music," she said. "I think you can express in music much of what you can't express in just words."

Longtime friend and choir member, Judy Mears, said Stellhorn's music is unifying.

"It kind of holds us all together. It has amazed me that she still finds new music. She'll tackle it and say, 'wait until you hear the prelude on Sunday,'" Mears said.

Mears said the congregation is planning on celebrating Stellhorn, her accomplishments and her retirement Sunday, but is staying tight-lipped on the details.

"She knows there is a celebration, but doesn't know what we're going to do. I hope she won't be too mad," Mears said, jokingly.

Stellhorn is giving up her throne, or wooden bench, to Ron Borchardt, but plans on staying active in the congregation.

"Now it's time to turn it over to someone else. I'll always remember the fine years I've had at Zion," she said. "And I intend to continue here as part of the worshipping congregation, singing while someone else plays the organ."