After 56 years, ward chorister, 87, still leads with joy and devotion

Mathel Ridges has led a melodious life.

Now 87, Sister Ridges, who currently lives in the Ogden 17th Ward, has served continuously in some Church music position from the time she was 14."At our Aug. 13 sacrament meeting," related Bishop Robert O. Scott, "Sister Ridges was presented with the book Hymns in recognition of her 56 years of service as ward chorister.

"She is a marvelous lady who sets a wonderful example of enduring to the end."

At age 8, Sister Ridges began taking piano lessons. She has taught piano for years and has studied voice and conducting throughout her life.

It was music that helped bring about her marriage to Wilford Owen Ridges in the Salt Lake Temple on June 18, 1925. Theirs was a harmonious relationship that lasted until his death on Oct. 30, 1979.

They met in the Ogden 9th Ward soon after Sister Ridges was called to be Sunday School chorister. He was organist.

"We worked together in Sunday School for a number of years; then he felt sorry for me and married me," she jokingly recalled during an interview at her home in Ogden.

Not surprisingly, music was an integral element in their home life.

"We played piano duets together. I sang a lot and he accompanied me, and we had lots of young people come to our home.

"He was bishop of the ward for a time, and every Sunday night, this was the gathering place. A lot of priests came here on Sunday nights. They would sing around the piano, and we'd feed them."

She said one young man whose parents had been divorced credited the Ridges years later with "saving his life" in that he stayed active in the Church through their influence.

With fondness Sister Ridges remembered leading the singing in junior and senior Sunday School, Primary, and sacrament meetings. She also was a stake Sunday School chorister and directed many ward and stake choirs and Relief Society Singing Mother choruses.

Bishop Scott claims that the current ward choir, under Sister Ridges' direction, is the best in the stake.

"The Christmas cantata, performed by the ward choir, is a sacrament meeting the entire ward looks forward to each year," he said.

"We have a lot of good singers in that bunch," Sister Ridges said of the choir. "They are very loyal."

Asked how she manages to keep the choir active, she replied, "I do a lot of phone calling."