Soft and majestic: Stucky starts playing organ at church 60 years ago

Donna Stucky of North Newton sits at the organ she plays for West Zion Mennonite Church in Moundridge, a place for which she started playing organ 60 years ago. The church recently honored her for her years of playing. Wendy Nugent/Harvey County Now

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

NORTH NEWTON—North Newton resident Donna Stucky thinks of the West Zion Mennonite Church in Moundridge’s pipe organ as kind of a family musical instrument.

Stucky’s dad was on the committee to get a new organ at that church, and it was installed in 1980, although her dad passed away before that.

“Because of that connection there, it just felt like my family organ,” Stucky said about the Dobson Tracker Organ. “It’s not, obviously.”

The church honored Stucky in June to commemorate when she first started playing for the church—60 years ago when she was 15. Now, she’s 75. She hasn’t played consecutively for the church all those years, but she has played for at least the past 35-40 consecutive years and when she was younger.

Stucky, a retired public school music teacher, taught in the Peabody-Burns school district for more than 30 years and then substitute taught for about two years after retiring. Her sub teaching included the towns of Newton and Moundridge.

“I’ve been a musician since I was 6 years old,” she said.

At that age, Stucky started begging her mom for a piano, so her mom started saving egg and cream money.

“Then, she started looking,” Stucky said.

At the time, they lived south of Newton on a farm, and later, the family moved to a place in rural Galva. Moundridge is where the family attended church.

“She finally found a used piano at the Singer store [in Newton],” Stucky said, adding someone had traded it in.

Stucky took lessons from a Hesston woman, as did her mom, brother and sister.

“She could play simple hymns by the time she finished,” Stucky said about her mom.

Stucky continued to take piano lessons and at the age of 14, her mom worked at Crabb’s Town and Country. At Christmastime, her mom bought an organ for Stucky.

“She had it delivered for Christmas—a small Spinet organ,” Stucky said.

Stucky practiced and played, and then wanted to play for the church. The church moved into a new building in 1961, and they bought a new organ.

“I started playing then the summer after I turned 15,” she said, adding that was once a month in the summer.

Stucky’s time playing at the church was interrupted by her husband’s alternative service at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka.

She enjoys playing the pipe organ in church.

“The sheer power of the instrument,” she said about what she likes. “It has so many colors and timbres. You can be very soft, meditative or you can have goosebumps because it’s so majestically loud and such a full sound.”

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