Leonard Oscar Venden

1918 - 1990

Leonard Venden, a pianist and organist, served as a pastor and music teacher in several Seventh-day Adventist academies. He and his family musical ensemble, which included his wife and two children, performed frequently and were widely known for their versatility and recordings released by Chapel Records.

Leonard was born in Clark County, Washington, the oldest and only surviving child of three sons born to Oscar and Amelia Yost Venden, the two younger dying in infancy. A graduate of Walla Walla College, now University, Venden started his career as a pastor-evangelist in the Southeastern California Conference, where he worked for five years, beginning in 1944. In 1947 he married Shirley Huenergardt, a vibraharp player, who had studied nursing at WWC and Loma Linda University.

They then worked for nine years in the Michigan Conference, where he was ordained in 1950, and where served as a pastor and taught piano and organ for two years at Cedar Lake Academy. During this time he devised what he called the Lightening Modulation Guide, a chart that enabled persons to modulate quickly from one key to another. The Vendens were featured as an organ and vibraharp duo on two Chapel Records, Songs of the By and By in 1954 and Beautiful Isle of Somewhere in 1960.

In 1957 the Vendens returned to Washington state and taught music at Auburn Academy for one year. At the end of that school year they took a leave of absence and returned to WWC for additional study. She completed a degree in home economics in 1962, and he taught piano and organ privately and assisted in evangelism in the area. They then lived in New York state, where he was a pastor in the Utica district from 1963 to 1966. Following that appointment, they moved to Michigan and taught music at Adelphian Academy. Venden completed a master's degree in music at Andrews University in 1969.

Starting in the early 1960s and continuing into the 1970s, they and their two children, Lenette and Gary, performed as the Venden Family Keyboard Quartet with Leonard playing organ, Shirley playing vibraharp and marimba, Lenette playing piano and marimba, and Gary playing piano. Both of the children, who had started piano lessons at age three with their father and had studied mallet keyboard instruments with their mother, also sang.

The ensemble played as a handbell choir on occasion. They released two records, The Green Cathedral in 1968 and Christmas Bells in 1969, through Chapel Records, and provided special music during the 1970 General Conference Session held in Atlantic City.

The Vendens resided briefly in Auburn, Washington, where Leonard taught music privately, interrupted by a six-month temporary assignment teaching music at Tri-Cities Junior academy in Pasco. They next moved to Sandia View Academy near Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Leonard taught for one year. At the end of that year, they moved to Orange County, California, where Leonard taught music privately and at LA Union Academy. They then relocated to Deer Park, California, where he again taught music privately and at Redwood Adventist Academy in Santa Rosa.

In 1979 the Vendens retired to Dulzura, east of San Diego. They were living there when Leonard died in 1990 at age seventy-one.


Sources: Gary Venden, June 2011; General Conference Committee Minutes, 10 April 1949, 1409; The Journal of True Education, October 1959, 10; North American Division Committee on Administration minutes, 1 May 1958, 58-31; Atlantic Union Gleaner, 4 May 1959, 10; 9 December 1963, 5; NADCA, 5 May 1966, 66-51; Lake Union Herald, 1 November 1966, 10: 4 April 1967, 9; North Pacific Union Gleaner, 18 May 1970, 3;The Review and Herald, 16 June 1970, 9 and 18 June 1970, 12; Pacific Union Recorder, 16 July 1970, 5; The Modesto Bee, 31 July 1970, B-3; Obituary, Pacific Union Recorder, 3 September 1990; personal knowledge.