Hanging up her robe: Choir member retires after 78 yearsLUVERNE — When the choir sings on Sundays at Grace Lutheran Church in Luverne, Margaret Vegge will be seated with the audience. For 78 years, she’s been lending her own alto voice to the choral harmonies, but Vegge recently announced her intent to retire.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — When the choir sings on Sundays at Grace Lutheran Church in Luverne, Margaret Vegge will be seated with the audience. For 78 years, she’s been lending her own alto voice to the choral harmonies, but Vegge recently announced her intent to retire.
“I’ve enjoyed it. I’m not a professional, but I could follow along and sing,” she said. “They kept telling me I couldn’t quit … but I hate to get out in the wintertime to practice; I’m afraid it might be icy, and it was a cold winter. I thought this was a good chance for me to quit.”
Now 93 years old, Margaret was 15 in 1930 when she joined the choral ranks as an alto at Old Immanuel Lutheran Church in Luverne. Two decades later, Immanuel Lutheran merged with Our Savior’s Lutheran to become Grace Lutheran, and in 1968, another Norwegian Lutheran congregation, Zion Lutheran, was absorbed by Grace Lutheran, Vegge recalled.
Music was important in her family — her dad played the accordion — so it was natural for her to use her own musical talents in the choir.
“My folks came from Norway, so I know a lot of Norwegian songs,” she said. “They used to go to some of the Norwegian organizations, and I’d hear them there. I love the Norwegian Christmas songs.
At one time, Margaret was joined in the Grace choir by her two brothers, Trygve and Carl, but more recently she’s been the family’s lone musical representative — but also an enthusiastic recruiter of younger voices.
“I’ve had brothers and nieces and nephews who have sung in the choir, too,” Margaret continued. “They will come and sing when they’re going to high school, but then they move away. We’ve had a hard time to get young folks to sing in the choir, what with the bell choirs and ministry teams now. The choir’s not as big as we’d like it to be.”
During her singing tenure, Margaret estimates at least 15 directors have put the singers through their paces. The current director is Jennifer Bakken.
The choir practices every Wednesday night, except for the summer months, and a small reception to honor Margaret is planned tonight in advance of the rehearsal. Then, on Sunday, they will perform a special song in her honor during the 10 a.m. service.
“‘Beautiful Savior’ — we’re going to sing that on Sunday, and they want anybody who’s ever been singing in the choir to come and join in,” Margaret detailed.
In addition to “Beautiful Savior,” Margaret lists “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” among her favorite hymns.
“Some of these old timers I go for more than some of the modern ones,” she admitted.
Wednesday night rehearsals have been part of Margaret’s routine for 78 years, but she’s not worried about filling the void in her schedule. Margaret has owned and operated Renfro Variety in downtown Luverne since 1965 and continues to go to work six days a week. She’s also in the process of downsizing from a house to an apartment.
“Nobody does anything like that,” she said about continuing to own a store at age 93, “but then nobody sings in the choir that long, either. Not many people work at my age, but I’ve been trying to promote Luverne. I can’t quit; I have to help keep the town going. ‘If Margaret doesn’t have it, you don’t need it’ — that’s what they always used to say on the radio about the store.
As long as she’s able in body, mind and spirit, Margaret plans to keep operating her store and encouraging people to “Shop Luverne.”
And on Sunday mornings at Grace Lutheran, she looks forward to just sitting with the congregation and enjoying the music.
“I’ll miss the fellowship, the director, the pianist, the people,” she admitted. “But I’ll just sit there and listen to see if I can hear the different parts.”