Dexter’s Presbyterian Church Choir, all School Kids

Aunt Nadine Shepherd was the main organist (pump organ) and pianist for the Dexter Presbyterian Church. About as soon as her own kids and nieces and nephews could read music, she gathered us into a children’s choir, along with other youngsters in the church.

During the 1950s, we’d all had a terrific music teacher, Ruth Sellers, at school, which was just a couple of blocks from the church. So it was even handy for us to walk there for practice after school.

It wasn’t long before we became the main choir, especially since most of our fathers were farmers and there were seasons of the year that they just couldn’t get to choir, even in the evening.

Back row: Bruce Atherton, Vince Wells, Joy Neal, Susan Shepherd, Judy Neal, Bonnie Johnson, Bob Cook, Jane Neal

Front: Gloria Neal, Dixie Thomas, Sandra Grant, Carolyn Cunningham, Patty Wells, Kenny Shepherd, Glenn Heckman

At first we wore short white surplices with dark dickies.

About 1960, with the pump organ on the left (with its rear-view mirror). It looks like the older kids got dark choir robes. Eight of us are first cousins.
Back: Patty Wells, Joy Neal, Jane Neal, Bonnie Johnson, Bruce Atherton, Robert Cook, Vince Wells, Susan Shepherd, Judy Neal, Aunt Nadine Shepherd
Front: ___Thomas, Patty Cook, Frank Spillers, Danny McMenamin, _____, Ken Shepherd, Dixie Thomas, Charles Clark, Byron Martin, Sandra Grant, Gloria Neal
After we grew up and left home, it was delightful to return to our home church to worship on Christmas eve. Sometimes we became the choir once more. The evening always ended with everyone holding candles, circling the darkened sanctuary, lifting our voices to “Silent Night” in four part harmony.
Many of us sang in church choirs for decades. Our own church has moved away from hymnals, the organ, and a choir in favor of praise songs with guitars and percussion. Some folks of “advanced age” admit that we miss the traditional Christmas carols.


  1. What a beautiful recollection of your experience in a youth choir! Many churches don’t have enough youth involvement to support choirs now. Thank you for sharing your memories, Joy.

  2. Like you, Joy,I am indeed one o the olders who miss the choirs and the organs, and sometimes cringe at the guitar and percussion hymns of today. More pumping. Less cowbells.
    Season’s Greeting.

    • I started out playing piano and organ for church and even took a semester of pipe organ in college. It might be even harder for my husband whose mother, age 99, still plays piano at her church, using hymnals but she also embellishes. Thank you, Don. God’s blessing to you!

    • Friday’s post is even more poignant. Christmas 1946. Thank you, GP. (I’m working on next year’s book: What Leora Didn’t Know: World War II Casualty Reports is the working title. )

  3. That’s a wonderful memory! How fun to have your cousins in choir with you. I did sing in choir for a year or two as a young kid. Did some cantatas on high school. I always enjoyed the traditional Christmas Eve candlelight service.

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