Feature

Gift of theater organ keeps musician, 88, at play and learning


| March 2008



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GIFT OF LEARNING: Rupert Otto, of Chelsea, Mich., received a theater organ from his friend, organ builder Robert Walker, a few years back, and the instrument keeps him piping up, even in his 80s.

Photo courtesy Joan Kettlehut

One of Rupert Otto's greatest joys in life has been entertaining others with music.

When the retired Chelsea, Mich., schoolteacher was just 13, he served as a choir director in his hometown of Bessemer. He filled the post until he was 20, his pay consisting of a fruitcake received every Christmas.

For 50 years, he and his wife gave piano and organ lessons, and traveled to give musical performances. He's also designed some 17 church and college organs in his lifetime, most recently a concert organ for Northern Michigan University.

Now, at 88, Otto is still learning something new musically, thanks to a friend's generous gift.

A theater organ donor

Otto lost his wife, Alice, in 2000. To help him through his grief, his friend Robert Walker - a Pennsylvania organ builder - gave Otto a Walker digital theater organ. So, while many people in their 80s have stopped taking on new projects and learning new things, Otto has begun a learning project that has brought great joy to himself, as well as to many in his community.





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