Pipe Organ Tribute Concert honors Bill Starkey at The Museum


WENATCHEE – The Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center honored long-time volunteer Bill Starkey with a Pipe Organ Tribute Concert on March 12. The concert featured performances by Sharon Stearnes and Margaret Scott.

Bill Starkey was born in Wenatchee June 14, 1926. He has lived in Wenatchee his whole life, except for the three years he spent serving in the Navy. Has was stationed in a combat zone in the South Pacific during World War II. After leaving the Navy he worked for the railroad for a short time and then went to work for Bell Telephone Company where he worked for 30 years, also serving as Chapter President of the Telephone Pioneers of America. After retiring Starkey traveled throughout the United States and Europe with his late wife, Rayetta.

Starkey began volunteering on large projects with the museum dating back to before it was relocated to its current building in 1977. He played a major role in the 1989 project that moved the pipe organ from the Liberty Theater to its current location. He was a lead in tagging and removing all the parts and pipes from its two chambers in the theater and reassembling them into one new chamber at the museum. The installation and restoration of this large instrument cost $60,000. To help defray these costs Starkey, along with a number of other organists, held a fundraising concert while the organ was still at the theater.

In 2000, a player piano mechanism was donated and Starkey and Herb Sinclair were key volunteers in automating the organ for daily visitor enjoyment. They were able to modify and install the mechanism using only the technology available in 1919 when the organ was made.

In the decades since its installation the pipe organ has been kept in working order thanks to the dedication of Starkey and a group of volunteers like him, all of whom possess vast amounts of patience and persistence as they work weekly to maintain this large instrument with its many moving parts, miles of wiring and hundreds of pipes.