Beloved organist returns to church after illness

Beloved organist returns to church after illness
Cumbest returned to church with a warm welcome. (Photo source: WLOX)

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Ninety-five-year-old Ida Mae Cumbest's fingers tremble with each key stroke of the organ.

"75 years and I hadn't missed many Sunday's," Cumbest said.

That is, up until recently. Cumbest's role as pianist and organist for Caswell Springs United Methodist church started in 1942. Her tenure hasn't gone without challenges, the biggest two happening in 2016.

"The first of April, I fell and broke my hip," Cumbest said.

She returned to the organ after a successful hip replacement, but it was unfortunately only momentarily.

"Then I had a stroke in October," Cumbest added.

The stroke, weakening her right side and limiting her speech, couldn't keep Mrs. Ida Mae from making her way back to the organ; a driving force through her intensive rehab. Her seat was left empty as the church awaited her return.

"That's her seat. There was never even a discussion of a temp or filling that role permanently. Thinking of worship without her on a Sunday morning is something that you never imagine," said Rev. Kevin Bradley.

With the help of her son Mark, who's been by her side the entire way, she walked to her seat at the front of the church on Sunday.

"It just did my heart good to see her sitting up here today playing some of her favorite hymns," said Mark Cumbest.

Once service was over, there were plenty of hugs from those who are used to her leading worship each week.

"I'm thankful that I've been doing it this long, and I look forward to coming here next week," Cumbest said.

Cumbest previously held the world record for longest tenure as a pianist and organist at a church. She recently lost the title, but is hoping to come back and reclaim it.

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