St. Raphael's window repair honors organist

New Ulm native Manderfeld has been playing organ 72 years


Journal Staff Writer

SPRINGFIELD -- The restoration of a stained glass window at St. Raphael Catholic Church honors an organist and music teacher with more than seven decades of service.

Bernice Marti Manderfeld, who has roots in New Ulm, has been playing the church's organ since 1934 and continues to play music to this day. She has taught music to hundreds of Springfield area residents.

"She's had a tremendous musical influence on many people," said Father Dennis Labat of St. Raphael's. "If she's asked, Bernice continues to play music by heart, including Mass at St. Johns Home in Springfield."

The church established a fund to honor Manderfeld and restore a stained glass window that features St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, playing the organ.

The 91-year-old window is original to the church. With the removal of a balcony, it will be an even more prominent church feature and will include wording honoring Manderfeld for her service.

Bernadette Cecilia Manderfeld was the last child born to Rudolph and Mary (Huelskamp) Marti, a very musical family in New Ulm. Bernice was named after St. Cecilia.

Rudolph and Mary Marti raised seven children. Everyone sang and played musical instruments. The boys played horn and violin while the girls played piano.

At age 6, Bernice began piano lessons from her first cousin who played music for silent movies.

By age 9, Bernice began teaching her friends and neighborhood children to play the piano.

Manderfeld's musical debut took place in 6th grade. She and another young girl sang "Moonlight and Roses," and "I Get the Blues When it Rains," with the Whoopee John Wilfahrt Orchestra at a car show at the Minnesota National Guard armory in New Ulm.

The girls sang in English and German. Whoopee John wanted them to tour with the orchestra. The notion was not approved by Bernice's mother.

Bernice began pipe organ lessons in 6th grade. She studied music during her high school years at Our Lady of Good Counsel Academy in Mankato.

Living in New Ulm in 1930, Manderfeld attended MacPahil Center for Music in Minneapolis. She rode the train to Minneapolis one day a week, took piano, voice and music theory lessons and rode the train back at night.

After a few years of study at McPhail, Bernice studied piano for three years with her first cousin, Alma Marti.

World War II kept Alma from touring France as a concert pianist. She studied piano at the Boston Conservatory.

Under Alma Marti, Bernice learned about the need to listen closely to music.

Bernice met Chris Manderfeld through mutual friends. The couple married at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in 1934 and settled in Springfield.

Manderfeld continued to drive to New Ulm to give music lessons until she began having children. Bernice began teaching piano in Springfield when her mother moved in with the family after Rudolph Marti died.

Many of Manderfeld's students advanced to state competition at Northrup Auditorium at the University of Minnesota. About a dozen were state winners..

Music continues in the family.

"When the family gathers, there are so many musicians, it's like a band," Bernice said.

Manderfeld retired from teaching music in 2004, but admitted she continues to teach it in her dreams.

The total cost of the church window restoration project is $13,000. Work is scheduled to be complete in mid-April.

Those wishing to donate may contact Father Dennis Labat or Connie Vogel at St. Raphael's at 507-723-4141 or 723-4137.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at


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