WELLSTON, Okla. (KFOR) – At just nine-years-old, Shirley Ivie began playing the piano at Wellston Christian Church 75 years ago.
She only knew how to play two songs then, so the congregation just sang them over and over until Shirley learned a third, and a fourth…
Today, Shirley has thousands of songs swirling in her head that she plays mostly from memory.
“We’re not a large church, we don’t pay any of our worship team,” said Pastor Brent Avery.
Avery says Shirley has never received a penny, calling her 75 years of service her ‘ministry.’
“There’s one word that I use to describe Shirley on a consistent basis and it’s that she is a ‘treasure,'” Pastor Avery said.
For her three-quarters-of-a-century of service, Avery nominated Shirley for a $400 Pay it 4Ward award from First Fidelity Bank.
Her family and friends filled the sanctuary for the big surprise.
“She’s here!” her son said, while peeking out a window.
Shirley thought she was called to the church for a praise band meeting, until she walked through the doors and was greeted with a resounding “Surprise!”
“What in the world?” Shirley asked.
Pastor Avery explained, “You have invested not only in the Wellston Church, but in the Wellston community for so many years. You’ve been there at weddings, at funerals and with students for so many years, so, Pay It 4Ward has $400. It doesn’t even come close, but it’s just a token for all of the blessings you have brought into our lives.”
“Oh my word!” Shirley said. After laughter and hugs, Shirley joked, “A lot of people lied to me today!”
At 84-years-young, Shirley can light the keys on fire. “And in any key,” she said proudly.
Shirley’s fingertips have touched piano keys millions of times over the decades, while playing for the church and through her career as a music teacher at Wellston Schools.
Her arthritis doesn’t hurt while her fingers reach from key to key, which is one reason she believes her talent is God-given.
“I wouldn’t want to be paid for it. However, they’ve never offered.” Shirley knows exactly how to make everyone laugh.
“Well, it’s a service, it wouldn’t be worth anything to me if I got paid for it.”
So perched at the church piano is where she’ll stay.
After 75 years, Shirley says her lifelong ministry is far from over.
“I’m gonna do it until I can’t do it anymore.”
Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.