SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Elneda Miller has performed a music ministry for St. Paul United Methodist Church in South Charleston for eight decades.
"As long as I'm able and they'll have me, I'll stay with it," said Miller, who will celebrate her 93rd birthday Sunday. "I am blessed, pretty much, with good health so far."
Miller, who grew up in South Charleston, has been part of St. Paul since her parents took her there as a child.
She was only 7 when she began taking piano lessons. When she switched to the organ at age 12, she had found her niche.
"It just appealed to me," she said. "On the organ, you set up your own stops and do your own thing with it. A teacher once said it brings out your personality."
She believes her love for music stems from listening to her uncles play the clarinet when she was young. She isn't sure what steered her to a different instrument, but recalls her mother always encouraged her to practice.
Her parents were both schoolteachers and her sister went into nursing.
Miller chose a career with Union Carbide, where she worked for 40 years, including many in the employment office where she enjoyed getting to know people.
Meanwhile, she was also a minister's wife. Her husband, the Rev. C.T. Miller, was a United Methodist pastor who retired from the conference in 1985. He also taught at Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston) for 32 years.
"He taught religion and philosophy," she said. "He taught ministers. We had a lot of ministers come to our home. I've had an interesting life."
After retirement, Miller and her husband got to do a lot of traveling until his health no longer permitted it. He died Dec. 8, 2007, at age 84. They had been married 62 years.
"I have nieces and nephews, but no children," she said, adding her life has been enriched by them. Several relatives plan to attend church with her on her birthday.
Aside from music, her interests include traveling, gardening and reading "anything I get my hands on."
She has played a variety of organs over the years. She first started on a Hammond and has a Baldwin spinet in her South Charleston home. Her favorite is the Allen electronic organ at St. Paul, where she has served as church organist since 1942. She was 12 when she began playing piano for Sunday school classes — so she has offered her musical talents to the church for eight decades.
Following the 10:45 a.m. worship service Sunday, Miller's church family will have a birthday party for her with cake and finger foods.
The Rev. Stephen J. White, the church's pastor for seven years, said Miller is a talented musician who is faithful, dedicated and knows her music well for any occasion. He said the church is grateful for her service.
St. Paul United Methodist Church is located at 4606 Kanawha Turnpike in South Charleston. The telephone number is 304-768-1981.
Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.com