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More than 50 years later, Stevens still plays organ at church

March 08, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - First hired as organist at Washington Square United Methodist Church in 1951, Catherine "Katie" Stevens retired for a while.

But she returned in 2000.

"I said I'd stay until they found someone else, and I'm still here," Katie said.

And she's not complaining.

Looking ahead to her 94th birthday on Thursday, Katie said she enjoys playing and contributing to her church.

"I love what I do," she said on a recent morning as she arrived at the church to practice for the coming Sunday.

For a while, Katie was playing the organ at Washington Square on Washington Avenue and its sister church, St. Matthew's on West Franklin Street.

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"Someone would drive me from one church to the other so I could play the organ at both on Sunday mornings," Katie said.

She dispelled rumors she ever rode on the back of Pastor Jerry Lowans' motorcycle when he traveled between the churches.

Phyllis Baker now is organist at St. Matthew's.

Katie has lived in the Washington Square church parsonage since 2002, so getting to church is just a matter of cutting through the adjoining basements.

"It's great when the weather is bad," she said.

Sometimes when Katie practices, the cleaning staff is there, enjoying her music.

"They ask me how I can work the keyboard and the foot pedals at the same time," Katie said.

She worries that not enough young people are studying organ today and that there won't be enough organists when she and others finally retire.

Katie was born in Midland, Md., in 1914. She studied piano at the Catholic School in Midland and further at Frostburg State Teachers College.

For much of her adult life, Katie taught piano lessons, but she has given that up.

In 1951, Katie and her husband, Herbie, moved to Hagerstown. She began playing organ for Washington Square, continuing until 1983, when she retired because of her late husband's ill health.

Katie now lives on her own, drives her own car, does her own shopping, takes care of her own business and is active in the community.

Once a year, she flies to Florida to visit with her stepgranddaughter, Bonnie Hemenway, and her family.

"It's part of my Christmas present from them each year," she said.

When she isn't playing the organ, Katie likes to crochet and do word puzzles.

"I don't know what I would do without my church people," Katie said. "They keep an eye on me."

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