My Turn – Music lifetime for 25 cents

From the time he was a small boy in Abilene, Kan., Bill Wood knew he wanted to make music.

"I begged my parents to let me take lessons," Bill remembers from his first-grade days. Happily for many of us, they agreed to shell out the shiny silver quarter needed to pay for each session, and a musician was born.

Bill will play his last regular worship service on organ and piano at 9:30 a.m. this Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in Portales, where he has held down both benches for the last 23 years.

ENMU gets the credit for bringing Bill and his wife, Ruth, to Portales in the late 1960s. He taught elementary music education at Eastern for 31 years, retiring in 1999, almost a decade after he'd settled next to the Methodist keyboards.

Jan Smartnick, who directs the FUMC choir, and Bill have a mutual admiration. He says working with Jan is one of the things he'll miss the most, and she concurs. "We've had a lot of fun together," she told me. "Bill is a perfectionist. Everything he does is the best. It's going to be a tough position to fill."

A lifetime of music for others that began with a 25-cent piano lesson — I'd call that a darned good investment.

Betty Williamson thinks Bill Wood might be one of the nicest people she's ever known. You may reach her at

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