Looking Back: Longtime organist Edith Hartline moves from Morgantown

Edith Hartline
Edith Hartline

It’s true that Edith Hartline very rarely missed a Sunday playing the pipe organ for the Morgantown United Methodist Church worship services.

In all of the years Edith performed here, she only missed two Sundays. Her faithful service has extended to nearly a half-century. Now, Edith has left Morgantown to live with her son in Morris, Pa.

She started playing that organ in 1964. For a number of years, she also directed the choir. Peggy Stoltzfus, the organist she replaced, moved away. Lois Eshelman and Dina Berstler, who came before Peggy, played on a two-manual Baldwin electronic organ, which was moved to Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Reading.

Now the church has a very fine Möller pipe organ with 527 pipes, including 90 French Trumpets. There are two chambers, one housing the Great and the other the Swell pipes, with a full 32-note pedal clavier - plus more than a full octave of Maas chimes.


Nearly all her life was spent in the Morgantown area. She was born Estella Edith Hartline to Russell and Estella (Michaels) Fernsler on Aug. 20, 1929 in Lebanon. She attended school there all her growing years, graduating from Lebanon High School in 1947.

Edith married Curtis Hartline in 1948. Curtis worked for Grace Mine of Bethlehem Steel Company in Morgantown for 29 years until he died.

Their first home in this area was near the Pool Forge Covered Bridge in Churchtown on a dirt lane. They rented there for four years. Their landlord, Mr. Weimer, then needed that place for his handyman and moved them into the stone house closer to the bridge. They loved this stone dwelling with two rooms downstairs and three bedrooms and bath upstairs.

Their next move was to a house east of Morgantown on the south side of Route 23 owned by Christian Kurtz.

Their son Robert was born in 1949. Robert grew up attending Twin Valley Schools.

After Curtis died, Edith moved into an apartment on West Main Street in Morgantown over the Greenery which had been Morgantown Supply, owned by Florence Kurtz Smoker. It was originally Richards and Ames Blacksmith Shop. This was convenient as the Methodist Church where Edith was organist was on the same block as her apartment. The building was renovated, including her apartment, and an addition was added by Pilgrim Tours.

At one time, Edith worked at Mom Mall in Morgantown at a dress shop. She also managed a gift shop in the historic stone and frame house at the corner of Mulberry and Main Streets owned by James Shenkweiler. This historic home, built by David Finger, Esquire, in 1809 and facing West Main Street, was purchased by Rite Aid and demolished in 2008.

Edith has two granddaughters, Heather and Nikki, and two great grandsons, Christopher and Jacob. A great granddaughter, Lydia, was born June 7.

In April, Edith’s son and daughter-in-law, Bobby and Debbie, persuaded her to move to their home four hours away in Morris, Pa. At first, Edith was reluctant to leave Morgantown and her many friends. Her decision came very quickly.

She phoned this columnist to play the organ as she was not going to be able to be there to play that Sunday. I was willing to do it but then remembered a very talented young man by the name of Mark Lammey, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, who was taking organ lessons at school. I contacted him about playing the organ for the Morgantown United Methodist Church.

Mark grew up on Lammey Road in West Nantmeal Township and had already taken sixteen years of piano training. Mark was willing to play that Sunday and committed himself to play for the services for the remainder of the summer. Mark’s grandmother, Mary Lammey, a friend of Edith’s, is organist at Morgantown Methodist’s former sister church of many years, Goodwill United Methodist near Loag’s Corner in West Nantmeal Township. His Great Aunt Marian Lammey had taught music in the Twin Valley Schools.

Edith’s son contacted her and told her that the preparations for her at his home weren’t quite ready. So that Sunday she was actually, for the first time, able to sit in the pew and listen to rather than play the organ. When asked for a photo at the organ after the service, Edith willingly sat at the organ to have her picture taken. She then gathered up a few of her personal things at the organ, such as a hymnal she has had since childhood and two little teddy bears.

The Morgantown United Methodist Church congregation quickly organized a going away party for Edith and took her out for dinner after church at the Windmill Restaurant. Fortunately, she is still able to keep in contact with her friends by telephone.

Edith donated much of her furniture to the Steeple to People Ministries. Edith rarely missed attending the Steeple to People yearly Banquets.

Edith is now attending Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Morris.