Recently, members of Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Parish in Niagara Falls announced Eleanor Asklar, longtime organist at Our Lady of Mount Carmel (now part of the parish), will be retiring after serving in music ministry at her church, parish and community for over 60 years.
Anita Harless, choir director at Our Lady of Mount Carmel worship site, said, "She's been such a wonderful organist there for so many years. She started in 1952, the only organist that our parish ever had there." Harless has worked with Asklar since the late 1970s, and called her a very private person who is well liked.
"She's always been so professional, just a wonderful person to work with," Harless, who directs about 20 people in the choir, said. This does not include St. Joseph worship site in Niagara Falls, which is part of Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Parish. The parishes of St. Joseph and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel merged in 2008, with the administrative offices centralized at the rectory of St. Joseph Church.
Harless said Asklar has "been a tremendous inspiration to (her)," and showed "a lot of pride and dedication in her work." She began working as an organist for her church at only 16 years of age, when she was asked to substitute for another organist. Once that organist moved to a different parish, the high schooler began to fill in for the church on a permanent basis, remaining until today. Harless said it came as a surprise to her when Asklar announced in May that she would be stepping down.
"I thought, 'Oh my goodness,' and I couldn't imagine working with anyone else at the time. We're still kind of interviewing people," Harless said. "She was much loved by all parishioners. She must have played for so many people's weddings, baptisms, funerals that she was the one you could always count on to be there." The parish is also in the process of planning an event in honor of Asklar's retirement.
Father Duane Klizek, pastor of Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, said Asklar "gave her all for over 60 years to the music ministry here, and helped the music ministry to develop and to grow." He has been the pastor for 18 years, and said the parish response has been that she needs a well-deserved retirement.
"The response for a bit sad, because, being here for over 60 years, she's played for all of their funerals," Father Klizek commented. "A lot of the people in their 40s, 50s and 60s - she played at their weddings and has been a part of their lives in both the happy times and the sad times."