Jeanne Hatton of Odessa has been playing the organ for St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Odessa for 63 years.
But now, she’s retiring at the end of this month.
“I’m retiring because I’ve done it long enough. I enjoyed it, but I want to give it up while I’m ahead,” Hatton said.
She grew up in Wilmington and learned to play the organ at Scott Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington. She had to pay the teacher for lessons, but the church let her use the organ for free.
Hatton and her husband, William Dean Hatton, moved to Odessa in 1950 and have continued to live in the same home ever since. Her husband started his watch repair business in downtown Middletown, which he closed this month after being in business on West Main Street for 69 years.
After moving to Odessa, Jeanne became involved at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. She started playing the church organ in about 1954 after the pastor asked her to fill in for someone just for the summer.
“She never came back. I got the job,” Hatton said.
When asked why she played the organ for so many years, Hatton said she likes the coordination of the eyes, hands and feet coordination.
“I love it,” she said.
Hatton also took her love of playing music to the schools.
She taught music at a private kindergarten school for five years, and then taught music to kindergarteners through fifth grade in the Appoquinimink School District for an additional 22 years. In all, she’s taught music for 27 years.
Karin Tunnel, pastor at St. Paul’s in Odessa, spoke well of Hatton.
Tunnell said she’s been pastor there for 13 years and “during that time and long before me, Jeanne Hatton has been a faithful servant of this church, providing inspiration music, all sorts of skills and acumen in terms of musical skills and certainly supported the worship of our congregation.”
At first, Hatton started playing the organ at the former location of St. Paul’s in Odessa. The church moved to another location in Odessa, and Hatton has been playing there ever since.
“She was faithful there for years. She was so faithful that she worked many years without pay. That really says a lot of her commitment to the worship life of this congregation,” Tunnell said.
“Now she’s being paid, but that being said, she shows up. She is faithful in her commitment to the choir and to the music excellent of this congregation,” Tunnell said. “Not only that, she is much more than an employee. She’s part of the life of this congregation and will continue to be so.”
Hatton has sealed relationships for years with people at the church.
“She’s part of the tradition and history of this church and she still has a very vibrant relationship with the folks that she helped raise in this church,” Tunnell said.