Celebration held for retired Children's Chorus director
SURPRISE! That was the word that echoed throughout The Bowen House lawn last Saturday afternoon when Judie Schultheis Woltz Henniger was the honored guest at a surprise party.
Henniger had no idea that she was the guest of honor when she stopped by The Bowen House to see a friend.
“I had a lot of my family members in town to visit with my cousin, Rory McBroom and his sons, Joey and Michael,” she said. “So we decided to go get some frozen yogurt before we headed to Rory’s.”
As they drove by The Bowen House, Henniger noticed a friend of hers, Darlene Barrett, that she hadn’t seen in a while. Once she started to walk up the sidewalk people began applauding and yelling surprise!
“I think everyone had more fun with the surprise than anything else. It was great to see many of my former chorus members, as well as some of my colleagues,” Henniger said.
Henniger was being honored after she announced her retirement as the director of the Hocking County Children’s Chorus (HCCC), which she founded 35 years ago. She said she was so touched by the number of Children’s Chorus members in attendance, as well as some of her colleagues, family members and friends.
“I was truly honored and it was a wonderful afternoon,” she said.
A proclamation was read by Jim Robinson, Logan City councilman, and Judy Maniskas, Henniger’s longtime friend since childhood, served as the keynote speaker.
“I am honored today to say a few words about my longtime friend, Judie Henniger. Contrary to rumors that Judie and I have been friends since kindergarten, she actually knew my husband, Ernie, Wrst, as they were in parochial school together,” she explained.
Maniskas reflected on their friendship throughout the years.
“When I hear the saying, ‘Bloom Where You Are Planted,’ I think of Judie,” Maniskas added. “She was ‘planted’ in Logan by her parents, the late Dayton and Cecilia Blasius Schultheis, both teachers with the Logan school system, and as a result, she spent the majority of her life in Hocking County.
“Following her mother’s untimely death, Judie and her sister, Ann, were raised by their maternal grandmother, Mary Taggert Blasius, a talented musician known for her beautiful soprano voice. I believe that Judie’s talent and love of music was cultivated and inherited from her grandmother,” she continued.
Maniskas said that during their freshman year in high school, they were members of the Logan Marching Chieftains as well.
“But I particularly remember the band – with a capital ‘B.’ When you are in the band, the group meets every day of the week to practice. That meant Wve days a week, nine months of the year, for four straight years.
“The idea being that you would improve as a musician over time. When we were freshmen, Judie was already accomplished in piano and clarinet, so of course, she sat in the Wrst chair, which meant that she rightfully played all the solos, while I, on the other hand, sat in the third row trying to keep up appearances and hoping that Mr. Gasbarro, our director, would not notice that I was not a very good musician. Unfortunately, I was still in that same seat at graduation from high school in 1956,” she joked.
The girlfriends walked up Market Street together to go to classes at the high school on the hill. Maniskas recalled walking to school with Henniger, reminiscing about Henniger’s pageboy hairstyle.
“I recall noticing one day that Judie’s pageboy hairstyle had beautiful shine and gloss to it. Judie said that she brushed her hair 100 strokes each night. It occurred to me then that this young 15-year-old girl showed extraordinary dedication and determination in all aspects of her life,” she said.
Maniskas remarked that their friendship continued again following college when they returned to Logan, and were typical homemakers and mothers in the 1950s. The friends ended up being neighbors on Market Street, went to the same church and still had many of the same interests.
Maniskas also noted that they are still best of friends working together on common goals. She concluded by saying, that Henniger has certainly bloomed where she was planted.
“You continue to Yourish with devotion and dedication to your causes,” Maniskas concluded.
Barrett, former HCCC board president and co-director, addressed the crowd as well. She also praised Henniger’s wonderful spirit, determination and her dedication to the hundreds of youth that have passed through the Children’s Chorus organization throughout the years.
After Barrett spoke, all of the former members of HCCC took to the stage and performed The Irish Blessing as a tribute to Henniger, along with the sign language that she had taught them.
Therese Karnes, new HCCC director, was primarily responsible for planning the surprise event.
As the former choristers left the stage, Marcia Jeffrey of the Logan Theater Group and also a former co-director of the Children’s Chorus, also offered a few remarks.
“Judie has a remarkable ability to succeed as a woman and managed to raise funds to the arts, which were both challenging things to accomplish 35 years ago,” Jeffrey praised.
As the celebration continued, another one of Henniger’s former classmates, Dr. Sandy Mathias, director Emeritus of the Columbus Children’s Chorus, took a moment to express her deep personal and professional respect for her good friend.
Karnes thanked everyone who attended the event including Henniger’s children, grandchildren and sister Ann Massey, who traveled from Pennsylvania to attend the festivities.
“I would also like to recognize Scot Givens, accompanist for the HCCC, who provided background music for the event, as well as Dani Bell and Jesse Russell for their efforts in coordinating the event at The Bowen House. It was a lovely and memorable afternoon,” Karnes said.