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Couple to celebrate 30 years of making music in church

September 21, 2010|By JANET HEIM
  • June and Dick Hess will celebrate 30 consecutive years of music ministry to Haven Lutheran Church in Hagerstown Sunday.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer,

Dick and June Hess have spent two-thirds of their married life leading the music at their church, Haven Lutheran Church in Hagerstown - a testament to their love for music, their church and each other.

"We work well together," June Hess said of her husband of 46 years. "He's very easy to work with."

"Vice versa," Dick Hess said.

The anniversary of their 30 consecutive years of music ministry to the church will be celebrated Sunday at the 9:30 a.m. worship service, a recognition that surprises the couple somewhat. Following the service will be a brunch at 11 a.m. and a Celebration of Music Ministry concert at 1 p.m.

The Hesses also worked at Haven for three to four years in the early 1970s, before Dick was transferred to Winchester, Va., for his job with Potomac Edison, now Allegheny Power.

"Really, it's gone by very quickly," June Hess said.

"It's the people. We've been fortunate to have good people to work with," Dick Hess said of the choir, a group that likes to socialize outside of church.

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June is the organist/keyboard player and Dick is the choir director. June didn't feel she could adequately direct the choir while playing, so Dick stepped in and offered to be choir director.

Dick, 68, and June, 67, grew up in the same church in Altoona, Pa., and started dating after high school. Both sang in the choir and played instruments.

June started playing piano in first grade and took organ lessons in junior high school. Dick began playing clarinet in elementary school as well as saxophone.

Both have found ways to keep music in their lives since then. During his time in the service, Dick played in a National Guard band in Pennsylvania and has played with the Hagerstown Municipal Band for almost 25 years.

The couple also sang with St. Patrick's Chorale during the 10 years it was in existence.

The Hesses moved to Hagerstown for Dick's job. He retired from Allegheny Power in 2002 after more than 38 years with the company, mainly in engineering-related positions. He graduated with a two-year degree in electrical and electronic technology from Penn State.

June, who received her X-ray training from Altoona Hospital, is a mammographer at Women's Imaging Center at Robinwood Medical Center. She said she has no plans to retire from her part-time job because she enjoys her work too much.

They still find time to travel and get the occasional Sunday off by arranging for substitutes. They also have served on the church council and worship ministry team and Dick was on the property committee.

As for music training, both took private lessons for their instruments as youths. June has taken organ lessons off and on as an adult and Dick has been to workshops for choir directors.

"The school of hard knocks, trial and error," Dick said with a laugh as he described his training.

In the 30-plus years they've worked in music ministry at Haven, the Hesses have seen changes. June began playing keyboard when contemporary church music was called for with the addition of summer worship on the lawn in 1991.

"We still try to incorporate traditional music and add music with a modern flavor," Dick Hess said.

He said the flexibility of the congregation and willingness to adapt to change is one of the things they like about their church.

"This church is really like our family, our home," said the Hesses, who are both only children.

They have two daughters and four granddaughters.

As Dick and June reflect on their decades with the music program at Haven Lutheran Church, they can't help but do some math.

"That's a lot Sundays when you get down to it," June Hess said.

"It's really been fun," Dick Hess said. "Obviously, if it was a chore, we wouldn't be doing it."

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