Louise Pelley was born on Feb. 1, 1920. The first time she played the organ for a church service at Bethany United in Harcourt, N.L., was in 1932, at the age of 12. Except for a six-month period when she was living in Galt, Ont., she has been Bethany’s organist ever since.
Pelley was just eight when she decided she wanted to play the organ so she could play all of the hymns she loved. There was no one to teach her, so she taught herself. In 1932, the church’s organist position became vacant, so young Pelley was asked to fill in for Easter Sunday. She did such a good job that the position became hers. Ever since, she has used what she calls the “talent God gifted me with” to fill Bethany with music.
Pelley has had many other positions in the congregation over time: she was the United Church Women’s group president for 40 years, Sunday school superintendent for 20 years and treasurer for over 30. “God has always been my guide, leading me through my entire life,” she says.
Outside of church, Pelley worked hard at building up two local general stores with her husband, Llewelyn, to whom she was married for 56 years until his death in 1995. She moved to a retirement home in Clarenville last year, so loved ones would not worry about her, she says, and gave up driving at age 95 for the same reason.
Pelley seems to know all the hymns. Does she have a favourite? “Not really,” she says. “As long as they praise God, they are fine with me.”
This story first appeared in the March 2018 edition of The Observer under the title “Longtime organist still playing at 98.”