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Archive for Sunday, December 4, 2005

For 98-year-old organist, perseverance holds her key

December 4, 2005

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— For almost 80 years the same fingers have turned the pages of the organ and piano hymnals inside Natoma United Methodist Church.

Ila Hobrock, who turned 98 last month, loves to tickle the ivories at home and at church. She doesn't remember exactly when she started playing for the church, but she thought it was when she was about 19 or 20 years old.

She plays mostly hymns, she said, but doesn't have one that she enjoys playing more than others.

"I don't have a favorite, really. I just like to play them all," Hobrock said.

Though she knows all the hymns such as "My Jesus, I Love Thee" or "More Love to Thee," she always has the right pages open in front of her.

"I always read from the book. I don't pretend to memorize them," she said.

The pastor, currently the Rev. Bob McCobb of Russell, picks the songs ahead of time. Hobrock plays in the Sunday service.

"I can pick any hymn in the hymnal and she can play it," said McCobb.

Even after playing for more than 70 years, she still likes to practice. Hobrock has a piano and organ to practice on regularly at her home just a mile east of town.

"I try to let her know in advance so she can practice. In the other little song book we use, she doesn't always know in advance, but she does just fine," McCobb said.

Hobrock said the hymnals have been the same from year to year, so there hasn't been much change in her church's music.

"It's nice to have her here. We have 30 to 35 people attend regularly and everybody appreciates her and her efforts. Music has been a big part of her life all through the years," McCobb said.

Hobrock taught piano lessons for several years, but stopped because there was a shortage of students.

She tried to teach her children, Gilbert and Bryce Hobrock, but that didn't last long.

"She tried to teach us, but we weren't too willing," Gilbert Hobrock said.

Though he likes music, as an "outdoor farm boy" he would rather have been outside.

He is a Natoma rancher and has driven a school bus for Natoma USD 399 for 45 years. Bryce Hobrock, Manhattan, is a retired Kansas State University dean of libraries.

Hobrock said she was born and raised 3 miles southwest of Natoma, and has lived in her current house since 1946.

She and her husband, Kenneth, were married 76 years ago. He died in 1987.

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