"God gives us all a talent and we need to use it," said Lydia Koth, whose love for music has been shared with others way beyond seven decades. "Music has been my whole life - my fun life."
Lydia has served as the choir director at St. John's Lutheran Church in Storm Lake, St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Aurelia and currently serves at the St. John's Lutheran Church in Hanover. (At one time, she served at both Aurelia and Hanover, managing her time and efforts with two distinct choirs.) Whew!
Lydia grew up in a house filled with music. With seven kids in the family, there were some awesome sing-alongs in the Redwing, Minn. home. Her mother also played the "pump" organ at the church.
She began taking piano lessons when she was 5 - and like any kid - some days she enjoyed it, some days she didn't.
When she graduated from high school she went on to St. Olaf College and then went on to the Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee, Wis.
There she lived with a doctor and his family, caring for the children in between attending school, who talked her into taking a one-year nursing course.
Looking back after so many years, she said with a smile, she knows she followed in her mother's footsteps which led her to love music and nursing. "My mom graduated in the first class of nursing at St. John Lutheran Hospital in Red Wing," she shared.
After completing the nursing course, Lydia began her career at Bethesda Lutheran Hospital in Wisconsin. She moved back home and by chance saw an ad calling for a nurse at Swallum Hospital in Storm Lake.
"I didn't even know where Storm Lake was but I looked it up on a map and decided to move there. I packed my little trunk and got on a bus in Rochester. As I think back, that took tremendous nerve. I didn't know anyone."
She worked for Dr. Morris for a number of years and enjoyed her nursing career. At the same time she became quite involved in service to the church.
She joined St. John's in Storm Lake soon after moving to the area.
She met the love of her life, Harvey, who had grown up on an Alta farm, at a young people's meeting. "He's been my partner since."
The couple was married Sept. 7, 1940.
She first shared her voice with the church choir and eventually was asked to be the director. "I enjoyed it immensely," she said.
Many, many concerts were presented in the church under her direction - with adults as well as Sunday school children. An interesting point she recalls is helping construct risers at the John Oatman farm. "Those risers were used for all our concerts," she said, indicating the great number of voices in the choir.
As time continued, the Koth family grew with the addition of three wonderful children - Paul, David and Lois. They often attended the choir rehearsals, sticking close by their mother as she directed.
The children attended Hanover School through the eighth grade. Eventually an invitation came along for Lydia to lead the choir at St. John's of Hanover. She was sad to leave St. John's in Storm Lake but knew it was a call from God, leading her to the church Harvey had grown up in and a chance to be closer to her children's education.
Amidst directing at Hanover, she was called upon by St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Aurelia. For 20 years she directed both choirs, dividing her time evenly between the two churches. And she never thought twice about the extra work involved or the time. She has just truly loved being around the Christian-based music and getting the church members to open their mouths to share it with the congregations. Now she concentrates solely on the Hanover choir.
"At one time Harvey was my good bass. He went with me many years. It is wonderful to hear them (choir members) singing praises to the good Lord above. I've never had any trouble with the members, they have always been good to me. I have come to know their voices and know what to expect from each of them. Our St. John's choir shows a steady glow of enthusiasm and is a wonderful group of dedicated Christians, always giving freely and willingly of their time and God-given talents."
She added there is always a little time for some fun at the weekly rehearsals.
In addition to the church choirs, consisting of around 40 members, she was asked to be the director of the 1,500-voice choir which presented music at the Lutheran Hour Rally held at Ames Coliseum in 1978. She held 17 separate rehearsals for the selected members throughout the state, bringing them all together for the first time the day of the performance.
She couldn't have felt prouder that day.
She also directed the choir for a 500-voice choir at a smaller rally held in Spencer and took part in the summer revival at Okoboji for many years.
She was honored Sunday during the bell choir concert presented at St. John's by daughter Lois, by her family and by the choir for her many years of sharing.
Lydia doesn't plan to retire from her position, but one thing that is being retired after 60 years, is the podium she has lovingly used for the past 60 years.
"It was made by Harvey and has traveled with me where ever the choir had appearances," she said.
The podium is now being replaced by "new" items purchased through a memorial left to the church by the Lester Grieme family.
"It's been fun," she said of her service. "I don't call it a job. Unless I'm fired, I'll keep doing what I'm doing. Music warms my heart. You can really speak to God with music. This is my way I can serve Him."
And while much of her dedication has been through volunteer hours, she is confident the rewards have been greater than gold.