SALINA — Harry Huber spent a summer studying on the same organ that Mozart once played before turning to his audience and saying, "Truly, the organ is the king of instruments."
And so it is, Huber agrees.
After 58 years of playing the organ during two Sunday worship services, weddings, funerals and other events at University United Methodist Church, Huber has decided to retire.
"I'll miss it, but there comes a time in life when you have to turn things over to somebody else, and I may as well do it while I'm sailing high," Huber said. "I have climbed this mountain long enough."
The Rev. Mike Rose, the church's pastor, said members of the congregation will probably feel some grief over the idea of church services without Huber's music.
Huber would rise to the occasion when the church was having a special celebration. He played all original compositions at the April 26 service, when the church celebrated its 100th anniversary.
He knew how to lead the congregation into a quiet, meditative state or wake them up as called for.
"They don't go to sleep singing the hymns," Huber said.
But Rose said the congregation has to respect Huber's decision to retire "at his young age."
"I don't tell anybody my age," Huber said. "I just let them try to figure it out. That worries a lot of people, and not a person knows."
When he was growing up in Gibbstown, N.J., his parents believed it was important for their children to know how to play the piano. He said he was fortunate that throughout the Great Depression they were able to pay $5 a week for his lessons.
When he was in fourth grade, a wealthy man in his hometown bought the church a new organ in memory of his wife. Huber was walking home from school when he came across a truck backed up to the front door of the church to deliver the organ.
He watched as the console was moved in and then ran home to tell his mom.
"'Mother, mother, they're moving an organ into the church, and someday I'm going to play it,' " he announced.
He's now played professionally for 80 years.
"Musicality is a God-given gift, and that's all there is to it," Huber said. "You should try to appreciate and cultivate that gift as much as you can."
Huber moved to Kansas in 1945 to accept a minister of music post at First Methodist Church in Hutchinson, where he worked for two years. Then he accepted a position in the music department at Kansas Wesleyan University, where he taught music for 32 years.
He also served as head of the music department and two terms as chairman of the division of fine arts.
Upon retirement, he was named professor emeritus of music and received an honorary doctorate.
When Huber first moved to Salina, he played organ on the weekends for First Christian Church before moving to University Methodist. He also played organ for 50 years at the Masonic Center.
Huber, who has already traveled to Canada, Europe and every state in the union, said his retirement days will not be filled with travel. He and wife, Sara, are ready to stay put, he said.
"I just want to not have to get up so early on Sunday mornings to tell you the truth for one thing," he said. "I'm just going to sit on the back porch in a rocker."