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updated: 8/26/2011 10:55 PM

West Dundee woman played organ for almost 70 years at funeral home

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West Dundee has lost a prolific organ player and one of the oldest women to ever call the village home. Ella M. Holtz was 101 when she passed away Wednesday at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.

Well into her late 90s, she was the primary organ player for funeral services at Miller Funeral Home in West Dundee.

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Tom Mullen Jr., one of the owners, said Holtz played the organ "from day one," soon after Miller opened its doors in 1939. Holtz even kept track of which songs she'd played for which services and also knew she'd played at more than 1,470 funeral services, he said.

"She was just a very gifted musician -- she played piano and organ," Mullen said. "You couldn't stump her. She was very well versed."

When Holtz wasn't playing the organ, she was very active at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Dundee, where she was a lifelong member.

She belonged to its senior Bible class, the Dorcas Society that serves funeral luncheons, and counted church offerings for the finance committee, said the Rev. Phillip Baerwolf, the church's pastor.

In addition to playing the organ, Holtz's other passion was knitting blankets for the quilting ministry at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in West Dundee, where her daughter Mary Eickhoff plays the organ.

When Holtz couldn't attend church at Immanuel, she continued to ask about people the church was praying for and offered to pray for them as well, Baerwolf said.

"She ... loved the Lord and I know that she's in heaven with her savior, right where she wanted to be, so we rejoice with that," Baerwolf said.

Holtz's survivors include two children, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. William Holtz, her husband of 70 years, preceded her in death 10 years earlier.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Miller Funeral Home, 504 W. Main St.

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