Eighty Years at the Keyboard and Still Going Strong

Post a Comment » Written on August 19th, 2008     
Filed under: News
ELKHORN, WI (August 19, 2008) – Ruth Cook was 12 years old when the regular pianist at church was unable to play and the Sunday school superintendent asked her to play “I Would Be True.” That was nearly 80 years ago, and Cook, who is 91, has been the pianist and organist at Millard Community Church ever since.

The Evangelical Covenant Church congregation will honor her with a dinner and special program on September 7.

“Even though Ruth measures barely five feet in height she’s very tall in the willing-to-serve department,” says pastor Lyle Heinitz. “I use Ruth often as an example of using our gifts for Christ’s glory and not retiring from that service as long as we are able. She remains faithful, flexible, and fun as she willingly guides us in worship on Sunday mornings, at weddings, and at funerals.”

Cooks says she plans to continue to play as long as she is able. Her faith and commitment to the church have always guided her. Her parents brought her to church for the first time when she was just two weeks old and figures she has probably missed fewer than 50 Sundays since.

Cook’s childhood and youth centered on music, including piano lessons, playing trumpet in the high school marching band, and singing in the school’s glee club. Although she gave up the trumpet, her music education didn’t stop.

In 1952, a church member unexpectedly donated a spinet organ to the church. “It just appeared in the back of the church,” Cook says. She had never played an organ before that, but she took six years of organ lessons. The congregation eventually purchased another organ, which she later replaced. In 1984, she bargained with a dealer at the county fair and purchased two identical Hammond organs for $10,300—one for the church and one for her home.

Cook also served for a long time as the choir director, and recalls that the group was made up of only six members—three each from two families. So, if one family was absent on a Sunday, there was no choir that day.

The church sticks to mostly “the old hymns,” says Cook, who counts “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “How Great Thou Art” among her favorites.

The church has purchased an electronic piano, but Cook doesn’t play it. “It has too many buttons,” she says.

Cook says she found her niche playing piano and organ. “I tried teaching Sunday school, and it didn’t take long to realize I didn’t want to do that,” she says, laughing. “But I loved playing music.”

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