Mary Zeline Dilden(e)-Winsett

 1908 - 2004

Mary Dilden Winsett, a pianist and organist, enjoyed a varied career as a music teacher and music editor, played in radio programs, and worked in evangelism and as a church musician. She also was active in a number of professional music associations in Texas.

Mary was born in Sherman, Texas, the oldest of three children of Claud Benny and Josephine (Jo, Josie) Lee Hall Dilden(e). The community was a college town and she studied music at the Kidd Key Conservatory and Austin College. When she was old enough, she was sent to Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern Adventist University, in Keene, Texas, where she graduated in 1925.

At SJC, Harold B. Hannum, Doris Holt Haussler, and Clarence W. Dortch, all of whom would become legendary music teachers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, taught Mary and encouraged her to pursue a career in music. Haussler also prepared her for later advanced study in piano performance.

After leaving SWJC, Mary taught piano in Oklahoma and then married Paul L. Winsett, son of the owner of Winsett Music Publishing Company, in September 1934 in Tennessee. Mary assisted in compiling and editing music books for publication.

She later returned to Dallas, where she participated in religious and secular radio programs, taught piano, played for evangelistic meetings, and provided music for area churches. She continued lessons on the piano and organ and became a member of the Dallas Music Teachers Association, the Texas Music Teachers Association, and the Music Teachers National Association.

Winsett taught piano at Dallas Junior Academy while simultaneously teaching at church schools in Mesquite, Oak Cliff, and Richardson. She also maintained a private studio where students from various high schools in the Dallas/Fort Worth area studied after school hours.

When some families simply could not afford to pay for piano lessons, Mary kept teaching their children anyway. She taught fifty to sixty private lessons a week as well as classes in music appreciation and assisted with school choirs. Winsett observed near the end of her life that she "endeavored to instill in my students the principles and knowledge I learned while attending SWJC, ‘Where Students Learn to Live.’" She was inducted into the Southwestern Adventist University Hall of Fame in 1992.

Although semi-retired after 1987, Winsett continued as organist for the Dallas Central SDA Church, a position she had held since 1952. She was living in Dallas when she died at age 96.


Sources: Biography at the Herbert M. & Ivanette Woodall Hopps Museum & Welcome Center, Keene, Texas (2004); Social Security Death Records; 1910 and 1920 U.S. Federal Census Records; The Ritchie Family Tree,