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100-Year-Old Organist Exemplifies Enduring Service 

Centenarian Erma Bodine shares her talents and testimony by consistently playing the organ and piano in church


By Delynn Bodine

For most of her life, centenarian Erma Fish Bodine has played the organ and piano for church meetings, and she's still going strong. She currently serves as an organist for the Stewart Ward in Mesa, Arizona, where she has lived and served in a music calling for more than 50 years.

Bishop Travis Webb of the Stewart Ward said that Bodine is an example of “faithful and enduring service” to him and other members of the ward.

“Erma comes early, sets herself up and plays beautifully. She does not complain or ask to be released,” Bishop Webb said. “In fact, she’s made mention that she knows that when she quits playing the organ, a decline would ensue. She knows that active, engaged service prolongs a sense of quality life.”

Bodine said she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t involved in music. “Music was part of our family life,” she said. “My dad could play any instrument he picked up and we spent many evenings singing together or playing instruments. It was our entertainment.”

Bodine’s lifetime of service began early. She started taking piano lessons from her aunt Mary Porter at age seven, and as she grew older and became proficient, she played for Primary, even as a child. As a young married woman, Bodine was called as ward organist. She fondly recalled that the Relief Society sisters in the ward would take turns caring for her newborn daughter while she played, passing the baby around the congregation.

Since that time, Bodine has been an accompanist in every ward she has lived in and has shared her musical talents freely. Her children recall that even when she traveled with her husband to places like Hawaii, Asia, Mexico, Spain, England, Germany and France, she would volunteer to play the piano.

Bodine believes that music often does more to strengthen Latter-day Saints than the spoken word.

“Music changes the atmosphere in a meeting. It invites the Spirit and touches the heart,” she said. “Plus, if you fall asleep during a talk, you will usually wake up for a hymn or musical number.”

Hymns have special meaning for Bodine. She strives to play them with feeling and, depending upon the song, “It can create a feeling of reverence, be an answer to someone’s prayer or move us to take action,” she said. 

She noted that even though she has played all her life and knows the hymns well, “I absolutely, always practice before I play. I still get nervous and make mistakes sometimes. I have even played the wrong song a few times. Sure, it was a little embarrassing, but the chorister would let me know and we would start over again.”

When asked how long she would continue to serve she said with a laugh, “My bishop says he will release me when I fall over the keyboard.”

Bishop Webb said Bodine has quite a sense of humor and everyone in the ward loves her. “What makes the story of Erma Bodine so incredible is that each of us tries to care for her, yet we are the ones blessed by her outreach, her wit and her perspective. Erma is not waiting to die; she is living! Any of us in her presence could easily rattle off a handful of experiences with Erma that left us laughing, lifted and better as people.”

He went on to say that Bodine will often chat with him after sacrament meeting, and she will comment that she doesn’t play like she used to.

“We assure her it sounds beautiful, and she is blessing our lives. As bishop, I love to have her sitting up at the organ fulfilling her calling. What a testament it is to the rest of us to serve the Lord as we endure to the end.”

Erma will celebrate her 100th birthday this fall with family and friends. When asked if there will be music at the party she said, “I’ll take music anytime, anywhere!”

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