I Am Local 6: Organist retires after 60 years with local church

If you go to Grace Episcopal Church for Sunday morning worship, there’s a person you can always expect to see.

Judy Bray says she’s been the Paducah church’s organist for more than 60 years. The 78-year-old plays her last song there on Sunday, Jan. 15.      

"I started subbing when I was 11,, which would make it 60, oh my gosh 67 years," Bray said.

As choir master and organist, Bray rarely misses a Sunday service, and she loves every note.

"You play something like that, you feel powerful, you know? It’s a great feeling," Bray said.

About preparing for her last Sunday as the church organist, Bray said: "I told Chris Black in the choir last night — he sits right next to the organ — and I said, ‘If I get all broken up crying, will you come back there and smack me?" 

It’s that wit and her experience that makes Bray hard for Rev. Charles Uhlik to replace.

"To have a musicianship, that quality Bray brings, is a loss," Uhlik said.

Bray says she’ll still attend worship services at the church, but this time she’ll sit in the pews. She says she’ll have to make some changes to the bench she sits on.

"They have padded cushion on the seats. They’ve got it to easy. I think I’ll remove them all," Bray said.

She’s used to the hard surface of her seat at the organ, and her transition from that spot to the congregation will take time for her and the community to get used to.

Bray’s last service is at 10 a.m. on Sunday. A celebration is planned after the service. The church hired experienced Paducah organist Jim Patton as the new full-time organist and choirmaster at the church.

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