Florence Rose Standish Abel

 1911 - 1997

Florence Abel, organist and pianist, served as an accompanist at La Sierra College, now University, and taught at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.She was active in the American Guild of Organists (AGO) throughout her professional life and served as a church organist wherever she lived.

Florence was the oldest of five daughters born to Herbert Nelson and Effie Mae Hubbard Standish.Her father was a piano tuner and direct descendant of Miles Standish, captain of the Mayflower.†† She was also a cousin of Virgil Fox, nationally known organist, both having started their first piano lessons together from a Miss
Farwell in Princeton, Illinois. They corresponded with each other for many years.

She married Harlyn Abel, a direct descendant through his motherís family of Ellen White, in 1930 and they would have three children, Doris, Jerene, and Norman.Jerene (Murrey) is also a pianist and organist and a member of the AGO.

He completed a B.Mus. in 1931 at the American Conservatory of Music and then accepted a position as director of choral activities at Southern California Junior College, now La Sierra University, in 1932, where she assisted occasionally as an accompanist when he presented choral programs.She also taught piano and organ at the Newell and Eilene Parker Studios in Riverside, California, was an officer in the local AGO chapter, and during the fifteen years they lived there was assistant organist to Newell Parker at the communityís world-famous Mission Inn.

In 1947 they accepted positions at Union College in Nebraska, he as chairman of the music department and choir director and she as keyboard instructor.The Abels arrived at a time when the school's music program, housed in a just-completed music building, had over 500 students. Returning veterans as well as the music program's reputation for excellence had created an overflow enrollment in music. During this time when her husband took students to Westminster Choir College in New Jersey and also when he also visited for lessons from John Finley Williamson at WCC, she would study with Claire Coci, noted organ teacher of that era.

Florence taught piano and organ and was regarded by one of her students, Richard Randolph, as a pivotal and influential person in his life who cared about and encouraged him and others who studied with her. When the Abels left in 1951, Randolph taught organ at UC during his senior year and for a year after he graduated. He would eventually teach music at three other schools of higher education.

In 1951 the Abels were invited by the Oregon Conference to oversee voice training and choral work in its churches and two academies.They moved to the Portland area, where Florence and Margaret Holden Rippey accompanied The Portland Rose Chorale, a large choral group founded by Harlyn.She also accompanied other choral groups and festivals in the area, assisted as an accompanist in productions of the Elijah and the Messiah, was active in the local AGO, and served as organist at the Portland Central Lutheran Church.

She served as dean of the Portland AGO chapter and after assisting in that chapter for many years was given honorary life membership.She was organist at the Central Lutheran Church for over forty years and in return for her record length of service was given a musical tour of Europe by the church. She was living in Portland when she died at age 86.


Sources: Interview with Jerene Murrey, 2014; 1930 and 1940 Census Records, Pacific Union Recorder, 8 May 1967; Review and Herald, 31 December 1959;Northern Union Outlook, 15 July 1947 and 20 January 1948, 4; Social Security Records; Ancestory.com; information provided by Steven Randolph.