LIMA — Speaking to The Lima News for a story on avocations of local women in October 1949, Nell Kriete noted she had “given quite a bit of time” to the organ at Trinity Methodist Church, where she had by then served as organist for 18 years and would continue to serve for another seven years.
Kriete, then in her mid-50s, had indeed “given quite a bit of time” to playing the organ — and the piano. For most of the first three quarters of the 20th century, Kriete played during church services, weddings, funerals, club meetings and, seemingly at times, any public event where a singer needed an accompanist on the organ or piano.
She also taught music to generations of Lima students and in May 1944, one of those students, a recent graduate of Central High School, made his last public appearance before entering the U.S. Army.
“Richard Foulkes, promising young Lima pianist, will make his last public appearance before answering the call to colors next Thursday at 8 p.m. at Trinity Methodist Church when he presents the first Lima performance of Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto,” the News wrote on May 28, 1944. “Assisting in the farewell concert will be Tom Fritz and Miss Nell Kriete, organist at Trinity church. Young Foulkes started study of piano at 13 with Miss Kriete …” the newspaper added.
In September 1953, when Foulkes returned to Lima for a visit while studying at a California theological seminary, he joined his old piano teacher for a piano-organ prelude on Rachmaninoff works.
Foulkes became a professor, author and missionary. He also became known as the leading pianist in Costa Rica, where he died in 2006.
Nell Kriete was born in Lima on March 18, 1893, the middle of three daughters of longtime Lima grocery store operator Edward C. Kriete and his wife, Hattie C. Lewis Kriete. The eldest daughter, Edna, was born in January 1890 in Richmond, Indiana. She married Forest Houchin, who died in 1927. Edna Houchin died in 1961. The youngest daughter, Esther A., was born in Lima in June 1902 and married John Williams, of Piqua. Esther Williams died in January 1965. Nellie Kriete, who died in October 1982, was unmarried.
The family came to Lima from Richmond, Indiana, where Edward Kriete had operated a grocery store, and returned there often to visit in an era when cars were a novelty and a road trip worthy of mention in the newspaper. Edward Kriete died in June 1945. Hattie Kriete died in February 1946.
Nell Kriete was graduated from Lima High School in the spring of 1911, a time when the festivities around graduation lasted for days. On the Society page of the News for June 4, 1911, reporter Edna Hanna-Armstrong wrote that the “largest and prettiest affair of the week just past, occurred on last Tuesday evening, when Mr. Leon Miller, president of the senior class of the High School entertained the members of the class and High School teachers, in a most delightful manner at his home on West North Street.”
Among those entertaining was Nellie Kriete, who, Hanna-Armstrong declared, “rendered a fine piano selection.”
In 1913, Nell Kriete was off to college. “Miss Nell Kriete will leave Thursday to enter the music department at Oberlin University,” the Times-Democrat reported on Jan. 1, 1913. By 1915, she was giving piano lessons from the family home at 1105 W. Market St. In later years, the students of Nell Kriete would perform at an annual recital.
Nell Kriete also continued to play the piano and organ at events of all sorts in Lima, a practice she would continue for most of the remainder of her long life. At a meeting of the Etude Club, of which she was a long-time member, in November 1919, Nell Kriete not only acted as hostess but also took part in a piano duet. More than a half century later, in March 1970, she was still providing the music, this time for an event at Trinity United Methodist Church.
In February 1941, when the Trinity Methodist Church choir joined other Lima choral groups at a singing competition in Columbus, Nell Kriete was their accompanist.
Much of her musical life revolved around the Trinity Methodist Church and it was through the church that she made friends with sisters Florence and Ruth Roberts, who had joined Trinity in 1939. The sisters had inherited from their father 227 acres of what had once been the family farm between routes 309 and 117, east of the I-75 interchange, which they refused to part with despite its steadily increasing value. By the time the sisters died in the mid-1960s, the land, and the sisters, were worth millions.
“I’d see them waiting for the bus and pick them up until it became a regular Sunday thing,” Nell Kriete recalled in a March 1973 article in the News. “Bless their hearts, they were good. Afterwards they’d buy my dinner. They lived the narrowest lives that were ever lived but I was never bored with them. They were ladies, cultured.”
Nell Kriete retired as organist at Trinity Methodist Church in September 1956 and was honored with a program and dinner at the church. She continued to play organ and piano as well as teach from her new home at 1129 W. Market St. Later, she gave lessons at Groman’s Piano store on West North Street. She died at Lima Memorial Hospital on Oct. 4, 1982. She was 89 years old.
Reach Greg Hoersten at email@example.com.