first_imgAfter getting married, Leo and her family moved to Olympia where she  became active at St. Michael’s.  “There was room for me on the bench there as I shared masses with Carol Beaumier, the lead organist,”  says Leo.  After Beaumier moved out of state, Leo took on responsibility for playing at all masses until a guitar mass was formed in the mid 1970s. “It has been a wonderful 60 years of raising my family and teaching and playing church organ for my Creator.  He gave me this talent, and I offer it all to Him,”  she says humbly.  She also recognizes that without that initial nudge from Sr. Ann Patrice Eilers, she might never have had reason to take a seat on the bench in the first place. Facebook16Tweet0Pin0Back in 1951, when Sr. Ann Patrice Eilers, OP asked her junior high school choir members if anyone played the piano, Marjie Leo didn’t hesitate to raise her hand.  She had been playing for a few years and was already able to  sight read just about anything.  Her teacher  was looking for someone who could play so she would be free to direct rather than accompany her  students.  The catch was Marjie would have to accompany the choir on the organ rather than the piano. A twelve year stint in Alaska didn’t stop Leo from playing.  Again, she was able to find room on the bench and from 1985 until 1995 she served as part-time organist at the Holy Family Cathedral in downtown Anchorage. She also played for Holy Cross Parish on an as-needed basis and for Christmas midnight services at the Monastery on Lake Otis Drive. That reliability has stood the test of time.  Throughout her long career, Marjie Leo has always found “room on the bench,” as she says, to share her musical gifts.  After accompanying numerous church groups, playing for countless masses, weddings and funerals, and teaching hundreds of private students for sixty years, Marjie Leo will be retiring at the end of this month. In 1969 Leo began teaching private piano lessons in her home.  “I wound up teaching for 13 years and had over 100 students during that time,”  she says.  In addition to juggling her family and her students, she was, by this time, the  full time organist at St. Michael’s,  a part-time organist at two local funeral homes in Olympia, and she was a member and officer of two music groups: The Capital Music Club and the Washington State Music Teachers’ Association. “I said I would love to learn,” recalls Leo. “Sister said she could not pay me to play for masses or services, but that she would teach me for free.   That was in my 7th grade, and I was then thirteen.  I promised that I would be reliable and someone she could count on to be faithful as an organist.” Although the couple eventually moved to Lacey, Leo has continued to serve at St. Columban and will play her last service there this weekend. As a student at Holy Angels Academy in Ballard, Sr. Ann Patrice’s student not only accompanied her junior high school choir, she went on to play for school musicals and the high school Glee Club.  She also served as organist for Requiem Masses during the week.  By the time she was in high school, Leo was good enough to be paid for her services. In 1995, lonesome for her children and grandchildren who all live in the Olympia area, Leo returned and found yet another church happy to offer her a seat on the bench.  “I began playing mass for St. Columban Church in Yelm, as I was now living there with my husband, John.” After sixty years of being reliable and faithful as an organist, Marjie Leo has more than kept her promise.last_img

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