Church organist honored for 50 years of service
Playing music has been an integral part of Tom Boone’s life since he was a young boy growing up in Bellefontaine.
After studying music at Bowling Green State University, the city resident began his role as an organist at the Bellefontaine First United Presbyterian Church in June of 1973, when he was 25 years old.
Now for the past 50 years, the dedicated and talented musician can be found on Sundays at the pipe organ’s console, treating the congregants to beautiful preludes, offertories, special music and postludes, and accompanying hymns and the choir. A recent weekend service, for instance, featured a full-rendition of “Pomp and
Circumstance” as the postlude for the church’s graduation Sunday.
Church members look forward to taking in this sacred music each week, as it offers time to pause and reflect and to offer praises to their heavenly Father.
Bellefontaine First United Presbyterian Church honors its longest tenured employee during a “Bash for Mr. Boone” on Sunday, June 4, with a special music presented during the service, followed by a reception to honor his five decades of service.
The church service begins at 10:45 a.m. The public is invited to join in the celebration from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the fellowship hall of the 117 N. Main St., church. Use the alley entrance.
The now 75-year-old said he began his musical career as a second-grader, taking piano lessons from Florence McKinnon, all the way through to the 11th-grade.
“It cost a $1 per lesson and she came to my home,” the city resident recalled.
His family attended the First United Methodist Church in Bellefontaine, and starting in seventh-grade, Mr. Boone said he began playing the piano at some of the services there.
Then as a senior in high school, he took organ lessons from May Eichmeyer, the organist at the First United Methodist Church. He submitted a recording of his talents on the organ upon application to BGSU, which impressed the staff in the music department.
For a time, he was a keyboard major there and he later switched his major to clarinet, graduating from BGSU in 1971.
It was around that time when some of Mr. Boone’s friends from the First United Presbyterian Church asked him if he’d join the choir there, an invitation that later led to his organist role.
“Eleanor Hess was the organist here when I started singing in the choir,” he said. “She unfortunately was stricken with cancer, and when she was no longer able to play in 1973, the choir director Barbara Watt asked if I’d be the organist.
“I knew they needed someone immediately. I didn’t know if I’d stick with it, but here we are today, nine (U.S.) presidencies later,” he said with a chuckle.
Also after his BGSU graduation, Mr. Boone worked as a school music teacher at several area school districts, including Ridgemont for five years, one year at Southeastern in Clark County and two years at West Liberty-Salem. He served in a variety of roles in these schools, including as a vocal music teacher and instrumental music teacher, and taught various grade levels, from elementary to high school.
Following his work in education, Mr. Boone was employed in the music retail business at Tokai in Lakeview, a company that imported musical instruments from Japan. He also served as the original activity director at the Logan County Friendly Senior Center in 1984.
Being involved in musical theater has been a major thrust of the local musician’s life as well. He was the longtime musical director for the Logan County Players, a theatrical group of community members that staged a number of musicals during the 1970s and 1980s. Of those annual shows, the ones that were performed from 1975-1986 took place on a stage at the First United Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Boone recalled that one of the first musicals the group produced was Show Boat, presented in 1971 at the Holland Theatre. Then Do Re Mi took the stage at Bellefontaine High School, followed by a number of other favorite musicals staged by the Logan County Players at the church, including Godspell in 1975 and 1985, Ben Franklin and Annie Get Your Gun. In addition to the talented thespians, the shows each featured a live orchestra.
“Some of the members of the Logan County Players have gone on to perform professionally,” Mr. Boone said, noting one of the members who now performs in Las Vegas.
More recently, the lifelong Bellefontaine resident also has been a familiar face at the Holland Theatre for a variety of productions since 2000, including directing the orchestra, performing in the orchestra, sometimes on clarinet; and providing piano accompaniment.
In addition to Sunday’s open house, cards celebrating Mr. Boone may be mailed to: Tom Boone, First United Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 579, Bellefontaine, OH, 43311.