Veteran organist

 June Edson sits at the keyboard of the Barron First Lutheran Church organ. She spent much of the past seven decades as a church organist and pianist.  

Congregation members, family and friends are expected to be on hand at 9 a.m. next Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, when the career of church organist (and former Barron resident) June Edson is celebrated.

Now of Rice Lake, Edson, 90, said that she reduced her schedule of organ playing about two years ago. But, according to her friends and family, she was a steady presence at the keyboard for 70 years, starting from the time that she was an 18-year-old graduate of Barron High School in 1949.

“I started coming to the church after school on Wednesdays for choir practice,” Edson said Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, when she visited the church in the company of her daughter, Jean Edson Wick, of Cumberland.

At the time she began her work as a church organist, June, the daughter of rural Barron farmer Harold Bjugstad, had already received a formal introduction to music.

“My father had been introduced to a fine organist in Cameron, Ralph Harnesh,” she said.

Bjugstad, himself a musician, sang with Harnesh at church funerals, June remembered.

“Dad arranged for me to have organ lessons from Mr. Harnesh at First Lutheran,” she added.

By the time she’d turned 18, June (who later married Barron department store owner Jack Edson) said she finally felt comfortable enough to play at First Lutheran’s church services.

Her handwritten notes listed a number of organists with whom she played over the next seven decades, a period of time during which First Lutheran was led by no fewer than 14 pastors.

What kept her going?

“Well, I grew up here,” she replied. “I was baptized here. There was a lot of music in my home, too. I played for my dad as soon as my feet could reach the pedals.”

Ruth Anderson, a friend and fellow First Lutheran organist who helped to organize next Sunday’s celebration, said Oct. 25 that Edson is first cousin to another outstanding Barron musician, veteran University of Wisconsin River Falls choral music director Elliot Wold.

Wold, a 1948 Barron High School graduate, was named to the school’s Hall of Fame in 2019.

Along with Jean Wick, June and Jack’s children include Janelle Edson Halverson, of Moorhead, Minn.; Jeff Edson, Buena Vista, Colo.; Julie Edson Geason, Plymouth, Minn.; Joan Edson Reichwald, North Oaks, Minn.