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Combee, an organist, was born and raised in Staunton, along with four siblings.
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Date published: 1/14/2013
STAUNTON--Betty Talley Combee took her shoes off as she approached the bench to her organ.
"That shows I'm not a professional," Combee said with a laugh.
The humble, quiet 86-year-old has been playing the organ and serving as a music teacher for more than 60 years.
Now retired, Combee still plays rather frequently.
"I never took it seriously too much, but I love it," she said.
Starting out her musical career as a young girl, she took up the task of playing piano while her father sang and the rest of her siblings made dinner and cleaned up.
"We had the choice on Sunday: We either help mother with Sunday dinner, help with the dishes, or play for my dad to sing," she said.
She picked her path at a young age. Growing up in Staunton, she was one of five children, and the only one who has lived in Staunton all her life.
After graduating from Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, Combee established the choral department at Wilson Memorial High School in Fishersville, where she worked for four years.
After serving as organist for Henry Funeral Home in Staunton since 1949, Combee retired at the beginning of December. She started out at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Staunton as the minister of music. The church's pastor, the Rev. John Sawyer, wanted to establish a program for teaching religion through music--making Combee perfect for the job. Then, after the church lost its organist, Combee stepped in.
"I loved both sides of it--the choral directing and the organ playing. My life has just been fulfilled when I think one of the greatest things that God has given me is that I can sit down and just play," she said.
She retired from that position at St. Paul's in 1989 after more than 37 years. She then played occasionally until retiring once again in May 2012. She also taught at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind as a piano teacher.