| Sep 24, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - September 24, 2009 Church organist recognized for 60 years of serviceby Julie Druker

Gary Hawley, church organist at Sharbot Lake Anglican Church, is honored for 60 years of service.

Many things have changed over the last 60 years at the Anglican Church in Sharbot Lake; ministers and members of the congregation have come and gone, but organist Gary Hawley, who was baptized at the church in 1931, has continued to grace its sanctuary almost every Sunday morning for the last 60 years, accompanying the Sunday service with his heavenly music.

Gary, 78 years old, began his foray into music at the age of eight when Lorne Consett, a pianist from Perth, used to travel to theatres in the area. He would often dine at the Hawley home and give young Gary a music lesson after dinner. Those early lessons went on for five or six years and eventually Gary became so adept at reading and playing music that he joined Lorne’s traveling dance band, which played at various halls in Sharbot Lake, Arden and Plevna.

Around the same time, Gary began playing the older pump-style organs at Anglican parishes in Sharbot Lake, Parham, Oso and Zealand (the latter two have since been closed). Gary remembers those older organs, “They had the pedals for your knees and you had to pump as well as play, so your hands, feet and knees would all be going.”

Gary took over the organ at Sharbot Lake Anglican Church from Mrs. Gordon, who, Gary recalled “was the organist back in the 1940s."

Almost every Sunday since the late 1940s Gary has arrived at the Sharbot Lake church early, donned his robes and lit the candles in the sanctuary, warmed up the organ (a newer electric model) and has sat down to practise the hymns and music for the day's sermon, which he himself has chosen.

Reverend Nancy MacLeod, ministering at the church for just over two years, is grateful for Gary’s expertise and sensitivity to the music. She explains, “Gary is fantastic and very experienced. He is always keen to try new things which is wonderful for me because I can completely trust him to choose the hymns and music that suit the readings and the prayers for each Sunday service. He always picks hymns that fit just perfectly.”

For Gary, playing music is not only emotionally rewarding, but it has enriched his life in a number of ways. He explains, “Music is so helpful in many ways and it even helps in my work since I work with numbers. If you keep your mind active, it keeps you young. I still feel like I‘m 40 years old.”

The proof is in the pudding. At 78, Gary continues to work two days a week as a fleet manager at Boyer Motors in Napanee, a career that began in 1950 in Sharbot Lake with Simonett Motors.

Married to his wife, Helen, for 52 years, the couple have two sons and five grandchildren. Kirsten, one of their grandchildren, is also interested in music. She plays piano and guitar and is carrying on the family music tradition.

As for Gary, he has no plans of giving up music anytime soon. “As long as I can continue to play and they would have me play, I will.”

Members of the church held a celebratory lunch after Sunday’s service in Gary’s honour and after speaking with members of the congregation there, it looks as though they see none other than Gary playing the organ there for many Sunday services to come.

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