Kitty deLoach has been the organist at Grace Episcopal Church for more than four decades.
She’s been there through it all -- Sunday morning church services, weddings, funerals and church holiday events. Now, after 46 years, deLoach said she feels as if it is finally time for her to retire.
“I love playing the organ, but it’s just time,” she said, sitting behind the organ in the church’s sanctuary. “Oh yeah, I’m going to miss it. Definitely, but it’s just time.”
Her love of the organ and piano can be traced back to her days growing up in Pinopolis, a tiny village near Charleston.
“(Pinopolis) only had one post office and two churches, and one was an Episcopal church. And my great-aunt ran the church so she pressed me into service,” deLoach said, adding that she started playing a pump organ there when she was 14.
And deLoach’s love and passion for music only continued to grow as she studied organ at Winthrop University, in Columbia and at Coker College.
It wasn’t until she moved to Kershaw County to accept a physical education teaching job, however, that she met her future husband, settled in Camden, and found out that there was an opening for an organist at a local church.
“When I moved here, there was an old lady playing at (Grace) and she just gave it up,” deLoach said. “I was Episcopalian, so I came here, and as it turns out, they needed somebody right after that lady retired.”
Before she would begin playing, deLoach said, there was one thing the church had to do.
“I told them I wasn’t going to play unless you build that screen for me,” she said. “I didn’t want people looking at me, watching me scratch my head or blow my nose. So the screen that’s up there now has been up there for more than 45 years, since I started. I don’t like to be out in the open.”
She’s quick to say that she wouldn’t have been able to serve as an organist for as long as she did without the help of her husband Bratton -- trying to get three sons ready for church in the morning proved to be very hectic.
But deLoach said she’ll always look back fondly on her time serving as organist at the church, as well as the time she spent teaching the organ to the children in the community -- including Janice Rivers, who was the organist at First Baptist Church of Camden until recently.
“I also taught a talented child that went on to great things: Cindy Atkinson. She went on to do music at a big church in Dallas, Texas. She’s my only claim to fame,” she said, laughing. “I just love to play so much, it’s my avocation. Yes, I’ll miss everything about playing the organ here, but they’ll find a replacement.”
But Louise Burns, choir director at Grace Episcopal Church, said that it’s impossible to “replace” deLoach, as her dedication, warm personality and talent aren’t something that can just be duplicated.
“It’s going to take a long time to find a replacement, just because of her personality. And as far as I’m concerned, she’s just irreplaceable,” said Burns. “She’s such a wonderful person and a fantastic organist. It’s hard to express how much we love her and how much we’ll miss working with her.”