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5:44 PM Sun, Dec. 16th

A suitable birthday: Woman turns 77 on 7-7-07

Pat Unkenholz plays the piano in celebration of her 77th birthday, on July 7, 2007.

Pat Unkenholz plays the piano in celebration of her 77th birthday, on July 7, 2007.

Pat Unkenholz turns 77 today July 7, 2007. Some might consider that particular combination a lucky omen, but she will not be casino hopping on her birthday.

"I'm not a gambler, but I feel very lucky," she commented. "I can't call it luck; it is God's good grace."

Unkenholz spent most of her life living in the country, just outside Mandan, N.D.

"My parents influenced my interest in music," she recalled. "My mom would say, 'Patsy, practice your piano or come do the dishes.' Back then, piano lessons were 25 cents. I would take a pint of cream for my piano teacher and stay overnight with her when I had a piano lesson."

She started playing hymns during church services when she was 9 years old.

"The Sunday school superintendent let us pick out our own hymns," she explained. "I am a firm believer in encouraging young people to take responsibility; otherwise, who will? I personally have a great responsibility to teach younger people to pick up the ball and start running."

After what Unkenholz considered a wonderful childhood, she went on to marry an "incredible man," Dick, whose calling was to be a pastor for the United Methodist church.

"We will soon be celebrating 56 years of marriage," she said. She graduated from college on a Wednesday in 1951 and got married the following Friday. "We have been blessed with four wonderful children, Mark, Jeanne, Carole Sue and David, and seven of the greatest grandchildren."

Unkenholz's life focused on music after she majored in it during college.

"One thing that is especially memorable is when I heard a pipe organ for the first time," she sighed. "I wanted to learn how to play it and then spent many years teaching organ. I decided to pursue my diaconal ministry of music in the Methodist church and took seminary courses. It took several years to finish this work, officializing what I had been doing for over 50 years. It was a milestone for me."

Nicki Adams of Prescott, along with his brother Patrick, takes organ lessons from Unkenholz. He plans to major in music at Oberlin College in Ohio.

"Pat really pushes us and is very selfless about wanting us to advance in a musical career," he said. "She has a great passion for the organ and it helps when the teacher can transfer that passion on her students in the interest of music."

Unkenholz also served as the first governor of the first session of North Dakota Girls State 61 years ago.

"When I went back last June to talk with the girls, they were so sweet," she commented. "I think they were surprised I could still walk."

The Unkenholes were planning to retire in Bismarck, N.D., but several years ago they realized that their children were scattered around Montana, Minnesota, Texas and Arizona.

"My daughter, Carol Sue, suggested we come to Prescott and even found this house for us," Unkenholz said. "We made the move and have been very happy."

Unkenholz still has no definite plans for celebrating her birthday on July 7.

"In the morning, my husband will conduct a wedding at the courthouse square where a couple will be married under a beautiful tree," she said. "On Sunday, we will be serving birthday cake at church."

Although Unkenholz will probably not end up playing the slots on her birthday, her birthday number combination has indeed proven lucky.

Contact the reporter at jtwaddell@prescottaz.com