Verndale organist ends musical career on high note, retires after 52 years

Ted Masog grew up with music, and he loved to listen to his mom play the piano. Her talent and passion rubbed off on her son.

Starting in the fifth grade, he remembers taking piano lessons from a Benedictine sister at St. Mary Catholic School in Little Falls. “After a few lessons,” he said, “evidently she told my mother, ‘You should really keep him on it. He might be sort of good.’”

She was right. Now 85, Masog recently retired after serving as the organist at St. Frederick Church in Verndale for 52 years. 

“Singing is an expression of faith and joy,” he said. Being able to use his talents as an organist and accompanist to help others express their faith in song has enriched that faith, “quite a bit.” He wishes, however, that people would sing more and louder.

Masog began accompanying the men’s choir at St. Mary Parish in Little Falls when he was a junior in high school. He worked with them for several years, assisting other choirs in the area when he was needed.

Masog made his passion for music into a career, pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and education from St. Cloud State University. During college, he continued to work with the men’s choir, taking a Greyhound bus from St. Cloud to Little Falls for practices.

After college, Masog started teaching music in Isle, Minnesota, but his career was interrupted when he was drafted and sent to basic training. After that, he shipped out to Wurzburg, Germany, where he was stationed with the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division Band.

“A musician … in an Army band … in Wurzburg. Holy cats!” he said. “It was music, music, music there. There were some really good musicians. It was amazing.”

He was in Germany for a year and a half and remembers it fondly.

“The Army was good for me, it provided me with some good discipline,” Masog said.

The military also helped him continue his education with G.I. Bill funds. He started pursuing his master’s degree at UCLA, but being newly married and starting a family, he and his wife Ladonna decided to move back home to Minnesota — first settling in Beardsley, then Verndale in 1967. They bought a house conveniently located across the street from St. Frederick Church and, within a year, the parish needed an organist.

Masog worked as the Verndale High School band director for 26 years. During that time, he kept up with accompanying choirs and playing for Masses at St. Frederick and for some Lutheran church services as well as teaching piano lessons after school.

“He was really busy,” said Catherine Masog, one of Ted’s daughters. “He was always requested for weddings and funerals, too,” she recalled.

Masog has good memories of his teaching career. “We had a good group,” he said. “I could hardly wait for the next concert, they were so good.”

He was a popular teacher, even having the auditorium at the high school named in his honor a few years after he retired.

“I think for a lot of kids, their best memories are from being in the band,” Catherine said.

Since retiring from teaching, Masog has volunteered to accompany choral and band students at Verndale and Bertha-Hewitt schools for contests and concerts. All that time, he was still playing Masses at St. Frederick.

Over the past year it’s been getting more difficult to get over to the church, especially in the winter, he said. “You know, [52 years] is long enough,” he said. “I’ve been pretty busy.”

Masog played his last Mass at St. Frederick on Dec. 28, and he’ll miss it. “It’s playing. I just like to play. That’s all.”

Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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