Playing for 65 years and counting

Arline Mueller is seated at the organ in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Babbtown, where she has been found nearly every Sunday for 65 years.

Arline Mueller is seated at the organ in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Babbtown, where she has been found nearly every Sunday for 65 years.

Arline Mueller has spent nearly every Sunday for more than 65 years playing the organ at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Babbtown, and she has no plans to ever quit.

Despite her arthritis, Mueller continues to sit in the front of the small white church near Meta on Sundays, playing hymns throughout the church service just as she’s done almost every single Sunday since May 1948. The organ is no longer a pump organ, which she played for 36 years, since Mueller’s arthritis made it too difficult to continue pumping. But she still loves the sound of her instrument and says she’ll stop playing when she stops breathing.

“I’m gonna die before I quit,” Mueller said with a laugh. “That’s the only way I’ll ever quit. That’s my thing. I never want to quit that.”

Mueller’s church, which was built in 1873, has a small but devoted congregation that has ensured the church’s survival throughout the years. Mueller would point to almost every item seen in the small church and tell how they came to have it — usually taking what other area churches in nearby areas no longer needed.

The church is where Mueller herself was raised. It was in that church she was baptized, confirmed and married. It was where her three sons spent every Sunday of their childhood, sitting in the back pew with their father, while Mueller sat up front with the organ.

Mueller’s passion started very early in life, when her parents gave her a small piano when she was 2 years old.

“I just took it from there and taught myself,” Mueller said. “I just wanted to play.”

She was very protective of her small piano, she said, even hiding it when visitors would arrive at the house.

“I wouldn’t let anyone touch it,” Mueller said, adding that she still has the piano today.

But it wasn’t until her brother’s confirmation that she took over playing the church organ. Before his confirmation, he told Mueller that he wanted her to play during the service. From then on, she played the organ during all church services.

“That’s when I really got started,” Mueller said.

And she rarely misses a Sunday service. Mueller said it’s rare for her to miss two Sundays, noting that she missed only one when she had surgery, though she said she probably could have played that day.

“It’s therapy, real good therapy,” she said of playing the organ.

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