W. Bredenberg: Tribute to extraordinary woman


New Year’s Day brought the passing of a truly extraordinary woman. Her contributions to the Twin Cities in the fields of education, music, art and religion are deeply appreciated by many.

I was privileged to know Elsie M. Gervais for the last 32 of her 97 remarkable years. I first met her when we shared duties as summer musicians at High Street Congregational Church. She became a continual source of encouragement and support when she retired from church music and I continued at the organ and piano.

In 2011, the High Street Church named her organist emeritus.

When I last visited her at The Lamp residential care facility on Dec. 19, 13 days before her death, she reached out with an engaging smile and a firm handshake. We shared a full hour of stimulating conversation, mostly about classical composers and favorite hymns.

During a previous visit, I learned that she was still looking up new words in a dictionary kept at her elbow. For our last visit, I prepared a list of new words for mutual inquiry, but we never got to those words. Bach, Beethoven and Brahms trumped Webster on that unforgettable day.

Will Bredenberg, Lewiston