Orfordville church organist honored for 52 years of music

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Monday, October 11, 2010
— Sunday's hymn of the day at Orfordville Lutheran Church was "What a Friend We Have In Jesus."

If you asked him, Jesus might say the same thing about Nancy Thorson. Over the weekend, Thorson and her church family celebrated her retirement as the church's organist and pianist. She's been playing weddings, funerals and services for 52 years.

Normally, churchgoers file out during the "postlude" or recessional song at the end of a service. Not this Sunday. The Rev. Eric Jones and his congregation sat and listened to Thorson play "The Heavens Declare the Glory of God" and ended the service with a standing ovation for her.

Thorson's not going anywhere, Jones told church members at a post-service brunch celebrating Thorson's years of service. She still will accompany Jones when he performs services at local nursing homes. And she could be available to play on some Sundays and special occasions, Jones said.

Thorson played the piano during Sunday's service, but most church members will remember Thorson for her years of playing the organ. She doesn't play the organ at church very often any more because her health isn't what it once was, Thorson said.

Nor is the organ's, Thorson told the Gazette.

Jones told the congregation that he and Thorson during the previous week had talked about doing service work and what it took to do it well. They talked about how the goal is to make the work itself the focus and not the person doing the work, Jones said.

He regretted he's only worked at Orfordville Lutheran for one year and didn't work with Thorson for long. He won't forget her dedication, he said.

"Thank you for teaching me and all of us what really matters," Jones said.

Both readings during Sunday's liturgy were about people who took a moment to thank God for what He provided. Jones said that Thorson has done so Sunday after Sunday for decades. She returns each week to say, "I have something to return in thanks for all the blessings I have," Jones said.

Thorson's first weekend playing at Orfordville Lutheran was in May 1968, she said. She missed the next weekend because she had to go home to Sheboygan to pick up her wedding dress.

"They probably thought I was scared away," Thorson said.

She was married that June in Sheboygan in (you have to whisper this part) a church of a different denomination.

"But I turned out to be a pretty good Lutheran," Thorson said, smiling brightly.

She started out playing piano for the church choir and eventually learned to play the organ. As a child, she took piano, voice and harp lessons.

In addition to playing at church, Thorson worked as an accompanist for 16 years at Parkview High School and worked with youth groups before that, she said.

When asked, Thorson said she found the strength to devote all those years to musical service because she was comfortable with it and because it was her job.

If you'd asked her to volunteer to quilt or serve Eucharist for decades, she might not have stuck with it, she said.

"That's what I love about church," Thorson said. "There's something for everybody. It doesn't matter what you're good at. Just come on in, and we'll find something for you to do."

Last updated: 3:16 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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