Myrtle Groom, 86, died September 8 in Bellevue, Washington. She was organist and music director at First Congregational Church in Bellevue from 1978 until retiring in 1997. Previously, she held organist and choir director positions in Mississippi, Kansas, Bellevue, and Seattle.
Born Myrtle Jacobson on October 14, 1931, in Racine, Wisconsin, she began piano lessons at an early age. She played in church and at age thirteen won a contest sponsored by the Racine Symphony Orchestra, resulting in a concerto performance. As a junior at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, Wheaton, Illinois, she was the guest soloist at a concert of the S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Band and Mixed Chorus in Racine, performing works of Brahms and Liszt. She received the Bachelor of Music degree from Wheaton College, with a major in piano performance and a minor in voice. Further studies were at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.
Myrtle Jacobson met fellow music student Lester H. Groom at Wheaton College. They married in 1955 and lived in Chicago, Illinois; Decatur, Georgia; Blue Mountain, Mississippi; Baldwin City, Kansas; and from 1967 in Bellevue. She supported her husband’s career in church music and university teaching, performing with him on occasion. After the birth of their first child, she took up organ study with her husband.
In addition to employment in churches, Groom taught piano and voice at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and taught piano and organ privately. She played for many weddings and memorials and remained active in retirement as a substitute organist and recitalist.
Myrtle Groom is survived by children Rebecca (John) te Velde, Vera (Mike) Liles, and Lester W. Groom, and grandchildren Vera te Velde, Brent te Velde (Jennifer Clamon), and Mary Liles. Memorials may be sent to the American Guild of Organists, Seattle Chapter, or Wheaton College organ students’ scholarships. A memorial service was held October 19 at Hope Presbyterian Church in Bellevue.
Robert A. “Bob” Luther, 75, of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, died September 21. He was born on September 22, 1942, in Sibley, Iowa, and earned a Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance and church music and a Master of Music degree in organ performance and music theory from Drake University, Des Moines. Luther also conducted study at the University of Michigan and the Eastman School of Music. His organ teachers included Marilyn Mason and Russell Saunders.
Luther served as principal organist from 1984 to 2004 at Zion Lutheran Church, Anoka, Minnesota, and continued as principal organist emeritus after his retirement. As a recitalist, he performed in the United States and in Europe, including Austria, Italy, England, Germany, France, and Spain. Luther taught at Carleton College, the University of Evansville, Drake University, and Grand View College. He was a music theory teaching assistant at the University of Michigan.
Active with the Twin Cities Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, he was also a life member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and an honorary member of Pi Kappa Lambda. He is listed in Outstanding Educators of America, Dictionary of International Biography, Who’s Who in the Midwest, and other bibliographic publications.
Robert A. Luther is survived by a brother, LaRoy (Lila) and sister-in-law, Gretchen, nieces, and nephews. A celebration of Luther’s life occurred October 11 at Zion Lutheran Church, Anoka. Memorial gifts may be made to the church, 1601 4th Avenue, Anoka, Minnesota 55331.
John Weissrock died September 9 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was born and raised in Ohio, earning a master’s degree in organ performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Wayne Fisher. He won the national organ playing competition at First Presbyterian Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana, at 21 years of age in 1960.
Shortly thereafter, he was selected to be organist and choirmaster for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Milwaukee, where he remained for 12 years. He made recordings at St. Paul’s of both organ and choral works with a group he founded called Outreach: Music of the Church.
Following that, for two years, Weissrock was organist at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee. His last position was organist and director of music for 32 years at the Church of the Gesu on the Marquette University campus in Milwaukee. There he collaborated with members of the St. Louis Jesuit musicians to effect organ/guitar accompaniments for a number of their compositions. He gave monthly recitals as a way of raising money for the church’s organ fund, and he designed the rebuild project of the Gesu organ, originally built by W. W. Kimball, carried out by the Schantz Organ Company that ranks as one of the largest organs in the state. As a recitalist beyond the Milwaukee area, he performed at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and at St. Pierre Cathedral in Angouleme, France.
John Weissrock is survived by his sister, Rose Ellen Hehr, and her children.