Gordon and Peg Black have decided to retire after 45 years directing music programs at First Congregational United Church of Christ, where they’ll remain parishioners.
Christmas Day was the last service with Gordon as music director and Peg leading the hand bell choir — duties she took over from her husband five years ago. Peg also served as director of the children’s choir for 15 years.
They both officially stepped away from their long-held duties Dec. 31.
“We’re leaving the positions but our plan is to come back in late April,” said Gordon. “We’ll still sing in the choir, play hand bells, and be participants. If they need an organist for one Sunday, I’ll be glad to help. I’d actually like to do that occasionally at other churches in the area too.”
Gordon became the head organist and music director in 1971 after moving to Wellington in 1970. The couple was married at the church in 1972. He spent time as band director at McCormick Middle School and assistant band director at Wellington High School before moving on to Columbia Local Schools, where he worked for 28 years as a band director, elementary school teacher, vocational high school teacher, and technology coordinator.
The congregation installed a plaque on the back of the church organ’s bench to thank Gordon for his contributions.
“I asked if they were kidding,” he said. “Brass plaques are for famous people. I just appreciate that so much. It will be there forever. I guess I am the longest-serving organist in the history of the church.”
One of his predecessors as organist was Mildred McCormick, whose husband, Roy, provided the namesake for McCormick Middle School when he was principal there.
“Through the ups and downs of the church, the lean times and the good times, we’ve always had a vocal choir and hand bell choir,” said Gordon. “We’ve never had a point where we didn’t have enough members. There was always a group here that wanted to be a part of that.”
Peg, who has also worked as a music teacher in Wellington, said she will miss aspects of being part of church leadership but is looking forward to retirement.
“I’ll miss the people,” she said. “I’ve worked with them and the kids as they’ve grown up in the church and they’re family. We’ll go back and sit in the pews but it will be a bit different. It might be nice to play hand bells instead of directing them. It’s not like I’m not going to still be involved. It’ll be nice to not be in charge as much.”
Amy Calfo, a member at First Congregation UCC for the past eight years, said the Blacks always made a concerted effort to get children involved in church programs, even aside from the children’s choir.
“They were just integral to the everyday running of things,” she said. “They sought out children with talent on the piano and flute. It was always about keeping music at the forefront. That’s a great added experience for those kids.”
Next up for the couple is time visiting family as well as furthering their stained glass, copper, and mosaic glass garden art business, which they’re working on in Florida this winter.
“We want to visit our grandchildren who live in the Chicago area,” said Peg. “We’ve never been able to go there on a Sunday because of church. They don’t get a lot of time to travel either, so we want to visit a little more with them.”
“When we come back from Florida we’ll be getting ready to do some art shows,” Gordon said. “We have one of those in May up in Michigan. We’ve been doing that for about 15 years now ever since I retired from teaching.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Courtesy Photos Gordon and Peg Black are thanked by parishioners after 45 years of leading First Congregational United Church of Christ’s music programs.
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