Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Stella Doornbos Peterson | 1921-2010

Stella Doornbos Peterson, church organist, dies

LUTZ — If you needed to find Stella Peterson on a Sunday morning, you'd pretty much know where to look.

For 70 years, some 3,500 Sundays, Mrs. Peterson played the organ and the piano at her church. From about 1940 until 1969, she played at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church in Illinois. For 39 years after that, she played at the First Reformed Church of Tampa in Town 'N Country.

"She donated her time," said her son, Bill Peterson. "She never ever charged the churches for playing. She did it because it was what she loved to do."

Mrs. Peterson passed away March 27 after suffering a stroke. She was 89.

Music seemed to be ingrained into Mrs. Peterson's being, her son said. She had been suffering from progressive dementia in recent years, and sometimes had trouble recognizing her own grandchildren. But when she visited the nursing home where her husband, Bob, stayed until his death last year, she'd always sit down at the piano.

From deep inside her came the memory of the hymns she loved so much. She was nearing 90 and her mind was no longer sharp, but she could play those hymns as well as ever.

"She'd sit down to play, and the residents would gather around and lean on the piano and sing along," her son said. "You'd see the people who worked there walking by, and they'd start singing."

She could play some classical pieces, but never had any real affinity for that kind of music. Even in recent months, when she could no longer play, her family could tell that she was still moved by sacred music.

"As she got older and the dementia took its toll on her, we noticed that if you played hymns on the car radio or wherever, it seemed to have a calming effect on her," Bill Peterson said.

Mrs. Peterson was born in Berwyn, Ill., to Dutch immigrants. One day when she was in her teens, her father sent her down to the corner store to buy some milk. The store was owned by a family named Peterson. She met Bob, one of the brothers who ran the store. They were a couple ever after. They married in 1944 and remained together until his death.

They lived first in an apartment above her parents' house. As their family grew — they eventually had four sons — they moved to larger quarters. Her husband owned restaurants, and business opportunities took them to several Illinois cities.

In 1969, the Peterson family, including their grown sons, moved to Lutz. They bought and operated a company that contracted with Hillsborough County to provide garbage collection services for the northwestern part of the county for many years.

Music and religion had always been integral elements of Mrs. Peterson's life. She played the organ and sang in church choirs for as long as anyone could remember. Soon after the family moved to Lutz, she began playing at the First Reformed Church.

She'd also perform, on occasion, for weddings and other special events. That was the only time she'd accept money for playing. But even then, she didn't profit from her music.

"From what we've been able to tell, we believe that any money she'd get from playing at weddings, she'd give it back to people who were in need," her son said. "People from her church would always tell us, 'She really helped us out when we were going though a tough time.' She had a good life. She was a good person and a good Christian."

In addition to her son Bill, Mrs. Peterson is survived by sons Kenneth, Thomas and James, 11 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and a sister.

Marty Clear can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Stella Doornbos Peterson, church organist, dies 04/01/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 2:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bill Nelson on GOP health care bill: 'Now we know why they tried to keep this secret'

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON - Sen. Bill Nelson lashed out at the GOP health care plan released Thursday, deeming it "just as bad as the House bill."

    Reporters on Thursday wait for Republican senators to leave a briefing on the health care bill
  2. Video: Loggerhead sea turtle found in Islamorada resident's pool

    Wildlife

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on Monday, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys.

    An adult female loggerhead sea turtle, discovered in an oceanside residential pool in Islamorada on June 22, 2017, has been rescued and released off the Florida Keys. [Photo from video]

  3. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  4. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players

    Blogs

    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  5. She doesn't care if you accept her, as long as you respect her

    Human Interest

    Mary Jane Taylor finds strength walking quietly among the dead.

    Mary Jane Taylor,18, visits Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa when she is feeling low. "When I hit my low points in life I go the the graveyard," she says. "people are afraid of the graveyard. I love the graveyard." The transgender teen recently graduated from Jefferson High School. She is  enrolled in summer classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville studying international business. She plans to transfer to the University of Florida, attend law school and become a civil rights lawyer. (JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times)