Organist honored for 50-year music ministry

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St. Paul's Church in Garnavillo honored Sharon Stade for her 50 years of dedicated service as their organist and for her ongoing music ministry. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

On Dec. 4, St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Garnavillo honored their longtime organist Sharon Stade for 50 years of dedicated service.

The event was unexpected for Stade. "We totally surprised her! It was a glorious and wonderful celebration in honor of her dedication to our church and our Lord," said Shirley Balk, a church member. 

"Oh heavens yes! I was so surprised!" Stade exclaimed. "The congregation really knows how to keep a secret. They sent me a fake newsletter, and I had a fake bulletin. They knew they wouldn't dare tell my husband, or he would have leaked it out. The committee, Pastor Hatcher and the congregation really spoiled me with flowers, gifts and even invited our Stocks-Stade family and my Kuehl cousins. I was rather overwhelmed. "

Music history

St. Paul's ministry of music has been an integral part of the worship service since the congregation was organized over 165 years ago.

Vague early records indicate Dr. Sweet used his musical gifts to create a choir and incorporated music into the worship service. Under his tutelage, Miss Margaret Kuenzel, later the wife of Fred Harberg, became the church organist and retained the position until 1876. 

Throughout the years St. Paul's rich music ministry has remained strong.  Miss Lucia Roggman, B.A., B.M., was the church organist for 70 years, from 1902-1972. 

Early lessons

Following Roggman's retirement Sharon Stade assumed the position. "I took piano and voice lessons from Miss Roggman. She was a lovely lady and taught me so much," shared Stade. "On Christmas Eve in 1972, Pastor Urlaub called and said Miss Roggman would not be able to play for the children's program and they needed me to accompany the program." 

Stade's childhood was filled with numerous influential musicians who had a strong faith in God. "My mother loved music and directed the St. Paul's Junior Choir up until she passed away suddenly at age 80," she noted. "I had several doting uncles that sang in the choir and a quartet. Music and faith filled our home." 

The talented musician began piano lessons at age five and throughout high school participated in piano, voice, and band solos. "I know people are much better than I am," she humbly pointed out. "Music has provided me with an opportunity to steadily serve my church and our Lord. We are so blessed at St. Paul's to have such a wonderful pipe organ. It brings me so much joy to be able to practice in solitude and sing and play as I please without anybody listening."  

Luther College

Stade graduated from Luther College in Decorah majoring in religious and elementary education, with a minor and special endorsement in music. She taught elementary vocal music at MFL-Farmersburg, and was a teacher and substitute teacher in Garnavillo.  

While attending Luther College Stade was inspired daily by Weston Noble, professor, and the phrase "Soli Deo Gloria" – "To God Alone be the Glory."  

"I resonate with these words and have applied them to my life every day since college," she commented. "They are the words Bach used every time he composed a piece of music." 

Stade has no plans to retire, and will continue to spread the mission of Christ through her music. "I love what I do!" she told The Press. "The only regret I have is that I wasn't able to sit with my husband and son during church services throughout the years."

Stade was relieved Pastor Hatcher did not ask her to address the congregation during the celebration. "Pastor knows me well. It doesn't take much to make me cry," she said with a smile. "A little gal, who is so sweet and always has a big smile on her face, approached me uptown and asked about my corsage. I told her it was given to me because I have played the church organ for 50 years. She exclaimed, 'Fifty years! That's half a century!'"

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