A Letter of Reminiscence from Marilou Benz Harrison, a former parishioner

St. Stephen's recently received a donation toward the refurbished organ, along with a letter of reminiscence, from Marilou Benz Harrison, a former parishioner. We thought the parish would enjoy it, so with Marilou's permission we are sharing the letter:


St. Stephen's has loomed large in my life for as long as I can remember. My family started going there during WWII as it was geographically "the closest non Catholic church" during gas rationing. Neither of my parents had been raised Episcopalian - instead a Congregationalist and a Lutheran. But they grew up in the NW and here they were living in a small town in the east. Certainly they became lifelong, loyal and very active members of the congregation. I will remember Sunday School, Confirmation and singing in the choir along with my father (Luke Benz) and stepmother (Pauline Murrah Benz). Mom always taught Sunday School taking on the Middle School age classes - the ones no one else wanted to teach. Our family activities revolved around the church, especially on holidays.

When we first started attending St. Stephen's, the church had a small pump organ. Then right around 1940 there was a big sale (auction?) to raise money for an electric organ. My mother (Margaret Benz) walked the 4+ miles from our house to the sale location leading our burro, Bonita. She was sold as part of the effort to raise funds for that organ.   I think it was Aunt Margery Curry who said she could hear Bonita braying when bass notes were played on that organ. One of my father's brothers was an accomplished musician and played a large church organ in Yakima, Washington. I think Dad envied his brother's skills and the instrument on which he played. By the way, that original pump organ still exists. Dad acquired and rebuilt it. The bellows had been destroyed by mice feeding on the rice used at weddings over the years that had found its way inside the organ. For many years it was in our living room where Dad played it. Now it's a my brother Mark Benz's farm in Vermont. With the assistance of at least one grandson, he rebuilt it again and it is still played.


In 1960 Lee and I were married at St. Stephen's. In 1967 my mother's memorial service was there. My Dad's was there in 1976 and four years later Pi's was too. Dad and Pi sang in the choir. The cut through the wall between the choir loft and the altar was originally called "Luke's Lookout ". He was active in making that happen as for years he had been frustrated at not being able to see what was happening on the main stage. For many years he served on the Vestry, most of them as Treasurer. Pi and Dave gave the funds to build the columbarium behind the church as a Memorial to their parents. Even though we live in Denver, Colorado, all three of our children were baptized at St. Stephen's. My older daughter was married there. Certainly St. Stephen's has historically had and continues to have great meaning to me.

May this new organ ring out the sounds of praise and thanksgiving for many years to come!