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Wyckoff Church Organist Celebrates Seven Decades Of Music Ministry

Lois Veenstra, of Haledon, celebrated seven decades as a church organist this month.
Lois Veenstra, of Haledon, celebrated seven decades as a church organist this month. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Allison Veenstra

WYCKOFF, N.J. — In seven decades, church organist Lois Veenstra has played more than 10,000 hymns, 1,000 weddings, and even more baptisms. She's played “By The Sea Of Crystal” — the church's official memorial hymn — more times than she can count.

The full-time organist at Faith Community Christian Reformed Church in Wyckoff celebrated 70 years as a professional musician -- and the beginning of what she says will quasi-retirement -- on a recent Sunday.

“I’m still going to play from time to time, “ she told Daily Voice. “I’m not closing the organ door completely.”

Veenstra began taking piano lessons when she was 9, learned to play the organ at 12 and by 15 was made an assistant organist in Fourth Christian Reformed Church in Paterson.

It has been a lifetime of music, worship, faith and service ever since — with the same congregation more than seven decades.Fourth CRC burned down in 1975 and was reborn in 1978 with the Wyckoff church on Sicomac Avenue.

The organ was an unlikely instrument for Veenstra. In addition to three manual keyboards worked with the hands, there is also a keyboard for the feet, plus crescendo and stopper pedals on the floor.

“The feet play the scales as the hands, so I had to learn to play with my feet, as well,” she said.

“I was so little I could hardly reach the pedals,” the 5’2” Haledon resident said. “Both your feet and hands are busy all the time.”

Veenstra has played for hours daily, a practice that dates back to the 1940s. She has spent countless hours in the church sanctuary preparing for services.

“To me, playing is more about the feeling someone gets when they listen,” she said. “It’s not about playing a lot of loud notes, its about comforting others. The old hymns are sentimental for so many people.”

As she looks back over her career, the mother of three, grandmother of 12 and great-grandmother of 10 feels blessed."I love my Lord," she said. "I depend on Him everyday. He gave me music, and that has been my peace and solace every day.”

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