A historic organ helps Chestnut Hill church community remember a beloved choir member

 Ann Stookey, a devoted member of the St. Paul's Episcopal Church choir, passed away in Nov. 2012. (Courtesy of The Ann Stookey Fund for Music)

Ann Stookey, a devoted member of the St. Paul's Episcopal Church choir, passed away in Nov. 2012. (Courtesy of The Ann Stookey Fund for Music)

Ann Stookey exuded life and energy. As an accomplished vocalist and musician, award winning floral designer and an avid volunteer, Stookey reached the hearts of many.

“She had such a unique and infectious spirit,” remembered friend Zach Hemenway, Director of Music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill.

Hemenway had the opportunity to work with Stookey through St. Paul’s choir, of which she had been a member for 17 years. Over the time they spent together, Hemenway and Stookey formed a close bond.

“Ann had an edgy and fresh character that was present in everything she did,” Hemenway said. “She had a lot of vision; I really just adored her.”

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In Oct. 2012 Ann was vacationing with her husband, Joe Waz, and a few friends. Waz had recently retired from an executive position with Comcast and the couple had relocated to Los Angeles with plans to fill their retirement together, with family, friends and travel.

“Ann and I met in 1979,” Waz said, “and since the day we were married, I don’t think we ever spent more than two days apart.”

Their journey steered off course when Stookey suffered a double brain hemorrhage while in Paris, and after a nearly two-week battle in the ICU, on Nov. 6, 2012, Stookey lost her life.

Though Ann was no longer living in Chestnut Hill, Hemenway and her family at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church were heartbroken. Waz and members of St. Paul’s gathered to discuss how Ann was going to be remembered.

“She used to tell me there was no greater thrill than standing with the choir as the organ was cranking away,” Waz recalled.

“‘You become part of the music,’ she would say.”

Due to Ann’s particular fondness of the church’s 1956 Aeolian-Skinner organ, Waz and Hemenway found it only fitting that they set up a fund in Ann’s name. The Ann Stookey Fund for Music for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was established in 2012.

Once fully realized, it will ensure the proper maintenance of the magnificent instrument which boasts four manuals and 110 ranks of pipes, playable over 9 divisions.

Though Waz made a generous donation of half the necessary funds, through events and donations from community members who loved Ann as well as the organ, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is on it’s way to realizing its financial goal.

On Sunday, Jan. 26, Hemenway performed an organ recital in memory of Ann Stookey. With a wonderful turnout, Hemenway felt the concert to be a huge success.

“It certainly helped raise some funds, though there is still much work to be done,” Hemenway noted. “Most importantly, it was a reminder to all who attended that Ann’s memory is alive and well at Saint Paul’s Church.”

In attendance at Sunday’s event was Waz, who flew in from Los Angeles to hear Hemenway perform.

“Ann was happy making others happy. Remembering her this way, through the music that was so central to her life, we’re carrying on her spirit,” he said.

Information on how to donate to The Ann Stookey Fund for Music can be found here.

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