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home : columnists : columnists September 20, 2017

Remembering Mary Resler
'Choirs of heaven have a new director'
The Times photo by Betsy ReasonNoblesville’s Mary Resler, retired minister of music for Noblesville First United Methodist Church, directs choir rehearsal for the 2014 Christmas concert.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Noblesville’s Mary Resler, retired minister of music for Noblesville First United Methodist Church, directs choir rehearsal for the 2014 Christmas concert.

By Betsy Reason

There will never be another Mary Resler.

I have known her since my early years of covering Noblesville, from the days when she organized Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission's Summer Band Concerts in Seminary Park to the many musical programs she led at Noblesville First United Methodist Church.

She also organized the music for the Noblesville Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center.

But I think her greatest pleasure came from leading her church's annual Candlelight Christmas Concert, "Receive the Joy."

Resler, who was the church's minister of music, would always say, "It's our gift to the community."

But Mary was actually the true gift to our community.

And now, 15 months after her May 2016 retirement, it is with great sadness that I share this news. Mary Resler died on Saturday. She was 79.

Hamilton Superior Court Judge William Hughes said it best on his Facebook page Sunday morning, "The choirs of heaven have a new director." He wrote, "Mary was an amazing, loving, talented and gifted person. She brought music to the hearts of many."

Visitation is from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in the church's Celebration Hall, with the funeral service scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday in the church sanctuary, and visitation beginning at 10 a.m. (Read Mary Resler's obituary in today's edition of The Times)

I imagine the church will be full of people whose lives have been touched in some way or another by Mary Resler.

I remember how she would always call me to make sure I would write a story about the Summer Band Concerts, her Musicale Series at the church or the Candlelight Christmas Concert. She was always busy planning some kind of music program for the community.

In 2014, she celebrated leading the 45th annual Candlelight Christmas Concert at UMC. That year, the concert featured a nearly 90-member chancel choir, 27-member orchestra, piano, organ, hand bells, harp and a men's gospel ensemble. Pastors narrated the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus Christ in between musical selections.

She always chose all of the music for the concert. She particularly liked hymns that were familiar to folks. The concert was repeated again on Christmas Eve, with the addition of candles and singing "Silent Night." It was a tradition that she loved.

The concert, which grew to several hundred in attendance, started in a smaller sanctuary of the church, then moved to Noblesville High School (which is now Ivy Tech). "We didn't have any place that would hold the people who wanted to come and see it," Resler once told me. Then in 2003, the church built the currently-used Celebration Hall that will seat more than 1,000 people.

For 46 years, Resler directed the UMC's choir, with 25 of those years directing its Broadway shows and musicals, including a monthly musicale series.

Music has been her life. The Brazil, Ind., native began playing the piano at age 3, and by the time she reached elementary school, she was very good.

"I played the piano when I was in school. Even when I went to first grade, I played the piano for the kids to sing their songs for our classroom," Resler had told me. She played in orchestras and bands, through high school at Indiana State University, where she studied music.

When she went out into the world, she became music director at Princeton Community High School in southern Indiana. She continued until taking several years off to raise her children, then returned to teaching. She and her husband, Gordon Resler, moved to Noblesville and joined the church in 1965. She directed the Friends Church choir 1965 to 1970, when she moved over to direct the Noblesville First UMC. She also taught music for 10 years at North and Conner elementary schools. And she directed more than 20 musicals at The Belfry Theatre in Noblesville.

But about three years ago, she slowed down, due to health reasons.

She gave up the Broadway shows and the musicale series.

Resler, who coordinated the annual Summer Band Series at Seminary Park for 18 years, said goodbye after the summer of 2014. Then the Friday after Thanksgiving of that year was the first time that she did not organize the annual Noblesville Tree Lighting Ceremony. Noblesville Chamber of Commerce took over and coordinated the program, during which Resler was recognized by Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear for her contributions of music to the community.

Resler, who played the piano ever since she could remember, could no longer play, except songs that she knew by heart. She couldn't read music anymore because of medication she took for back and knee surgeries, her doctors told her.

Mary directed her final orchestra and chancel choir performance during a retirement celebration on May 22, 2016 at her church. That Sunday, Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear proclaimed "Mary Resler Day" in Noblesville. Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) presented Resler with a Sagamore of the Wabash award, one of Indiana's highest civilian honors, for her contributions to Hoosier heritage.

When Mary was still directing the choir, she once said to me, "I really don't want to think about the time when I have to quit doing this because I do love it so much. Music has been my whole life. I can't think about giving it up. I just keep trying to go. As long as I can keep going, I will."

Judge Hughes echos my sentiments on his Facebook page when he wrote: "While I am sad, I am also confident that Mary is organizing a variety show of the best singers in Heaven."

-Contact me at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

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