For 54 years, Bromley has played the organ as a gift to Welty Brethren Church

December 05, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG - From the time she was 6 years old, Ann Stevenson had taken piano lessons. Then one day, her father traded the family piano in for an organ.

"I was 10 then and we picked out an organ at Shockey's," said Ann Stevenson Bromley. "I took six lessons ... the rest I learned on my own."

Fortunately she taught herself the complicated instrument so well that just a few years later, Bromley was the regular organist for her church - Welty Church of the Brethren.

It all began when her aunt and uncle were to be married at the church and then there was only a piano, Bromley recalled.


So Bromley's home organ was loaded onto a pickup truck and brought to the church for the Saturday wedding.

"They left it there for Sunday and I played for services," she said. "People really liked it but Dad wouldn't sell our organ."

So the Church of the Brethren Youth Fellowship took on the project and planted corn in the field next to the church to sell. After two seasons, enough money had been raised to purchase the first electronic organ.

"I was 15 then and I've been playing ever since," Bromley said.

On Nov. 25, Bromley officially ended her regular organ-playing duties at Welty after 54 years. Tammy Manthos, wife of the new pastor, is taking over with some assistance from Bromley.

"She volunteered to try and I have been working with her," Bromley said. For a while at least, Bromley will be accompanying Manthos on the piano while she plays the organ just to give her some support.

For 54 years, Bromley played for one Sunday service, weddings, funerals, revivals and of course was available for choir practices.

During that time, she got married, had four children, began a nursing career and helped in the family orchard business.

"I always did it as a gift to the church," she said. Sometimes she would get a little love offering after playing for a wedding or funeral, she said.

Still employed in nursing at the Fahrney-Keedy Home, Bromley often played organ for the Christmas concerts there.

One year, she was to play for the Smithsburg Minstrel Show and was returning from a family gathering in Florida when she had car trouble.

"We got home, I grabbed my music and sat down at the organ just in time," Bromley said.

Sometimes her organ duties meant her kids had to sacrifice but she said they always told her they understood.

At the Nov. 25 reception/brunch for Bromley at the church, all of her family was there - her children and a lot of cousins, some of whom read tributes to her.

Reluctant to retire, Bromley said it was getting harder and harder for her to get up and down to the organ and also to work the foot pedals.

Bromley described her father as her biggest fan and critic. "Lots of times, I would practice the organ at night at their house."

He would be in the bedroom and he'd yell out whether he liked what she was playing or not.

She also credited him with imparting his philosophy of life to her. "He said I should never take a job without being willing to commit to it."

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