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Yellow pips

She keeps on playing

She keeps on playing

At the age of 95, Maxine Minnox Key ’36, continues to use her musical gifts to bless others

My grandmother got the call 84 years ago at their farmhouse in the cotton-producing town of Holland.

“Alma, we need Maxine to come play the organ at church this Sunday. Will she do it?”

My grandmother did not hesitate, she did not falter, and she did not ask my mother.

“Of course Maxine would love to come play for the church.”

With that simple request Mother started playing music for the Lord. She was 11 years old when the pastor made the request. She is now 95, and still plays the piano every Sunday at her retirement complex.

My mother went on to play every Sunday for next three years after this initial request. She also played at the summer revivals. These revivals in rural Texas communities were a big deal in those days. There was fellowship, singing, and old-time religion. In Holland, it was held outside under a big structure called a tabernacle—a roof with no sides. My generation, as well as those following, might not appreciate the discomfort of heat, humidity, and insects that must be endured while God’s message was hammered home.

Mother went away to Mary Hardin-Baylor College in 1932, where she received a degree in English with a minor in music education. Mother remembers being in complete awe of her piano teacher, Dr. Walter Gilewicz. “Billy, he was from the same country as Chopin.”

After receiving her diploma she returned to Holland and got a job teaching both music and in the classroom. She also resumed playing the piano for the church.

After a full life of marriage, teaching, and raising two boys, Mother moved to a Houston retirement community. At the time she arrived, the community was looking for someone to play the piano at the Sunday service. After much consternation about whether or not she could still do it, she volunteered to play at the little service. That was 2002. She has been playing the piano and organizing the hymns for eight years. She has finally made it to the position of Music Director. The retirement complex paid her a small stipend for doing this.

As businesses are wont to do these days, the corporation which owns Mother’s retirement complex continually reviews their operating costs to keep them trimmed down. An alert accountant saw they were paying my mother $20 a week to play at the Christian services. Since accountants are trained to cut all unnecessary costs, he removed this expense from their budget.

After several weeks of not receiving the stipend, Mother went to the manager’s office to investigate. The manager, somewhat embarrassed, told her that it had been cut. My mother didn’t bat an eye. She simply said, “That’s okay because I am playing for the Lord.”

Eighty-four years after she got the Lord’s call, she still plays on.

-Bill Key