CLARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – After 74 years of music, one New Jersey man is ready to pass the baton onto younger talent.
He’s retiring from playing the organ for Sunday service and will join parishioners in the pews.
They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Since 1946, when he was just 14 years-old, Walter Miklas has been perched in front of an organ at the Zion Lutheran Church in Clark.
“I was playing this old reed organ, everything was manual, when you pushed down on a key, you opened up the air to come and hit that reed,” Miklas told CBS2.
Now, Miklas plays an electric organ; filling the room with beautiful hymns every Sunday morning.
“Here’s one that this one lady loves,” Miklas joked while playing his organ. “Then after the service, they come up to me with tears in their eyes, oh Walter I’m so happy you played that, it’s one of my favorite tunes.”
No matter where life took Miklas, an organ wasn’t far behind.
After college he was drafted and thought his career in music was a thing of the past. It wasn’t long before he wound up in front of one again; this time for a room of officers at a retirement party.
“I want you to play the organ, liven up the party at the officer’s club. So no matter where I went, if you knew how to play the organ, you were always involved.”
All good things must come to an end however, and Miklas says he can’t keep up with the instrument like he used to.
“I’m feeling the limitations in my hands. Arthritis is creeping in and you can’t move the fingers as fast. The brain says you got to do this and it translates down into the fingers and they don’t want to do it.”
The mark he’s leaving on the church will remain though.
“He leaves enormous shoes and it’ll be hard to fill those shoes,” Pastor Nathan Grewe said. “He leaves a big legacy behind but we’re sure we’ll have that organ filled for many years to come.”
Miklas’ seat will be filled with younger talent, but he’s not opposed to filling in every now and then.
This Sunday, the church will be holding a special service to honor Miklas and his 74 years spent there and, while he is willing to fill in occasionally, Miklas looks forward to relaxing at the Jersey Shore and helping his son run his music business during retirement.