By Rita Maisel
Not long ago the Cavalier County Library got a package of books by a new author – or possibly new to people in this area. Her name is Aileen Nowatzki, a familiar name in this area that sparked curiosity in finding out who she might be. The books came from someone in Fargo but the librarian did not recognize that name either. The obvious way to satisfy curiosity would be goggling her name on internet. Up came a link to an obituary for a regular library visitor of years past: Bob Nowatzki. Bob’s obituary listed Aileen as his sister in law and included other family members living in Fargo. This solved part of the mystery. It took a day or two before a memory surfaced of Bob’s mother, Eva, who had known my mother years ago and met me at the county museum, calling my house early one morning, probably in the 1970s. Her son was visiting and would be leaving that morning. Eva wanted to show him something at the Cavalier County Museum at Dresden before he left for his home in another state. Would I drive out to Dresden and show her guests through the Museum? It is quite possible that on that visit I did meet her son Jim and his wife who is the author of the books now on the library shelves in Langdon.
Both the internet and her books told us Aileen Nowatzki has lived in California for many years and while there has worked as a teacher, college instructor and translator. She has also written books, donated time as a park naturalist/docent in the Los Angeles area and travelled widely with her husband. Internet will give you her address and directions to her home plus other personal information as well as a listing of her books currently in print along with where they can be purchased. Knowing we had some of her books in Langdon, I checked one out titled “Mayhem on Mallorca” because it appeared to be interesting and the print was large enough for aging eyes. The story starts with a marine biologist stationed on the island of Mallorca just off the coast of Spain. Having never been to Spain or any of its islands the location also sounded interesting.
The Mallorca mystery is the third book in this particular series written by Mrs. Nowatzki which are mysteries featuring an American couple with both technological and investigative qualities who pose as journalists and are called in to solve mysteries in scenic parts of the world – possibly places the Nowatzkis visited on their travels. On their way to Mallorca the couple changed planes in Madrid and used their time in the Spanish capitol to tour the tourist sites which local travelers might enjoy reading about since some have mentioned visits to Madrid as special memories. The story catches your interest by the mystery but if you enjoy reading Marilyn Haggerty’s columns you will also enjoy the foods served at the various establishments on Mallorca. Another of the series books listed favorably in reviews is “A Shroud Over Iceland,” which was not in the package of books received, but might be available later if Icelandic descendants in our area are interested. Book seller web sites indicate the series is ongoing.
So far, I have not noticed a mystery set in North Dakota as part of the series. However, there might have been input from Nowatzki relatives who do live in North Dakota since drones play a part in solving the Mallorca mystery. John Nowatzki at Fargo is known for an interest in drones and some of the practical uses they offer for agriculture and the future. Readers might like the Nowatzki novels for an interesting change of pace or the tourist eye view of places you might like to visit.
From time to time people ask me to write about playing for church. Some of those suggestions come from people who consider my efforts in that endeavor to be something of a joke. Within the family, I have always been known as “the one with no talent”. But I have always loved music so when a brief stint at music lessons ended, I just kept on practicing. That continues to the present time which is proof that talent may not be the most important factor in playing for church. In discussing this with others who also play regularly it appears dedication, possibly stubbornness and a sense of humor might just rank as more important than talent.
Growing up I enjoyed music enough that when commanded to play for relatives practicing their instruments or preparing for solo work of various kinds, I just did what they told me to do while other more talented people accompanied their actual public performances. Over the years, practicing became fun and relaxation. At first, I only played on the pump organ at our house, but at other people’s homes (including my music teacher) it was necessary to switch to piano. Mrs. Bain decided I had developed something called an organ touch and suggested my mother buy a piano. That was not in the family budget. Like all kids in that era if there was a piano around, we would play on it at after school gatherings, Sunday School, Youth Fellowship and so on. One pastor had a rule that if the song is not in the hymnal it cannot be played in the sanctuary.
Our pastors had several scattered churches, most with regular Sunday morning or evening musicians. Not all of those people were interested in changing to an unfamiliar instrument so I was drafted to spend Sunday afternoons and at times evenings in groups of people whose names I rarely knew. Those who may remember Sunday evening services on a regular basis might remember that sometimes the evening services were singalongs. The pastor would chose a number of two and then the regulars would call out the number of the song they wanted us to sing. If there was not time for a long sermon no one seemed to care. Some of that tradition carried over to the less formal services held at nursing homes in later years.
One afternoon at the Osnabrock Home the late Grace Johnson wanted to play the piano and have me play on the organ. The residents had a favorite song and they wanted every verse even through the sermon was past and the benediction had already been given. When we finished a rousing rendition of “In the Sweet By and By,” the pastor had left……and it’s a long walk from Osnabrock to Langdon. Fortunately, visitors from Hannah were willing to give me a ride to Langdon.
When Rick Hazen was our pastor, we did many nursing home services together and if residents or even visitors asked for a special hymn or called one out during the service, Rick was always ready to include their requests. Sometimes it would be benediction time and a resident would let it be known that they had forgotten his favorite song (In The Garden) and the benediction would be delayed while we sang.
While I played the piano or any organ I had access to down through the years, I was never paid before this century but often substituted with some entertaining reactions. Marty DeVold had been our choir teacher when I was in high school and played for many years at the Langdon Methodist Church. When her regular substitute was gone and she became ill, her husband came around 10 on a Saturday night and asked if I would fill in for her at their church. He left a key to the organ. It was missile years and both the church and the organ had to be locked. There were strangers in town, a serious concern to the board members. As she battled health problems the requests for help became more frequent and practicing meant finding the custodian or a trustee to get into the church building as well as borrowing an organ key.
However, I was not the caliber of musician Mrs. DeVold was, or others who took her place. Some church members were quite offended when I played after the newer United Methodist Church was constructed. They would stop and interrupt the postlude to let me know their displeasure. Some left the church bulletin with lists of mistakes I had made on top of the piano! I often left in tears until the pastor suggested that “those who can do better should.” Volunteers were few and far between.
After many years I still make mistakes, have vision and hearing problems when the piano and pastor are far apart or open the book to the page listed in the bulletin and find the pastor has just announced another song entirely. My early lessons did not include sharps (the favorite key of pastors choosing hymns in many churches), so many songs need to be transposed to a key I can play in. It does help to find the same song in the hymnal of another church in a more accommodating key especially when the transposed melody vanishes from my memory without advance notice. However, some Sundays the music is glorious, everyone sings or at least attempts to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. That makes practicing worth the effort it takes. And yes, I still practice on the church piano.