By: Melanie Williamson
Sandy Neiding was recently honored by the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church for serving as their organist for 50 years. Although while talking to Neiding, she shared that she’s actually been playing for 52 years.
Trinity Lutheran Church in Vermilion was started in 1957 by a group of ten families, and Neiding’s parents were among those founding members. Because she had already been confirmed, she was considered a charter member as well. She stated she was the second youngest charter member of the church.
They held their first service as a mission congregation on June 18, 1957 at the Vermilion-on-the-Lake Clubhouse. Neiding shared that back then they had a two-legged piano that she played for the services.
Laughing, she explained that the piano they had was missing its back legs, so they perched it on the edge of the bandstand, so she could play it.
She played for two and half years before leaving for college at Kent State University. She was away at college for five years where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a master’s in Library Science. She then moved to New York City taking a job at the Brooklyn Public Library.
However, after only a year, Neiding returned to Vermilion and married her high school sweetheart. She took the position of librarian for Vermilion Elementary School, where she worked for 30 years. She reminisced that she figured she had more than 10,000 children come through her library.
She retired from Vermilion in 1998. Afterwards, she briefly worked for WVIZ as an area representative covering four counties. Today, she dedicates her time to her ministries. One is playing music and the other being making stoles for ministers.
She proudly shared that she has been making stoles for roughly 15 years, and her stoles are in 27 different states and two foreign countries. She stated that she focuses on the seminarians just starting out of the seminary, who are “poorer than a church mouse” are according to Neiding. She said they can’t afford the fancy stoles in the catalogues, so she makes unique individualize stoles. She went on to say that people describe what she does as a cottage industry, but she sees it as her ministry.
Her second ministry is of course her music. She chooses the music she plays for the preludes, and works with the choir director to choose hymns for each week.
When asked why she has done it for so long, she responded that it is “my way of serving.” Laughing, she added, “I don’t know what it’s like to worship off the organ bench.” Although she did share a brief time when a broken bone kept her away from the organ and in the pews. She described it as weird being in church and not playing the music.