Marcella Dittenber, along with Torrington, Wyoming churchmate Pete Peterson refuse to let age or physical impairments dampen their determination from serving the Lord and their church congregation with music and in many other ways.
Dittenber and Pete are 98 and 92 years old, respectively.
A lifelong educator, Dittenber taught kindergarten through 8th grade at the county public school system for 33 years. As if that wasn’t enough, Dittenber has been playing music at church and camp meetings for 40 years and knows how to play enough musical instruments to arrange them alphabetically: accordion, harmonica, organ, piano, trumpet and violin. “I am a faithful Seventh-day Adventist and bring music to the church every week,” she says.
“I grew up in a Christian home but not knowing much about Jesus,” she admits. “A loving neighbor family introduced Him to me. I had many rough bridges to cross. Now . . . what a loving Savior we serve! His mercies are new every morning.”
Dittenber enjoys good company and shows it when she drives out to hospitals and nursing homes regularly to visit friends. Her delicious meals are quite famous, especially when they make an appearance at church potluck.
Dittenber’s welcoming arms, both at church and her home, are warm and genuine; the abundance of her generosity reveals an obvious zeal to be like Christ.
“In both Old and New Testaments we read that the return of Jesus is imminent,” she declares happily. “We pray for His soon return.”
Pete Peterson has been singing since he can remember. As a young ranch worker, he sang while riding and herding cattle. Such was his voice that his boss asked him to ride along with him to enjoy the music.
He fondly remembers his experience of singing with the Barber Shop Quartet in Loveland, Colorado. “It was one of the highlights of my life,” he smiles.
Much like Dittenber, his introduction to the Adventist church didn’t come from his upbringing. “In 1969 I was watching a program called The World Tomorrow by Herbert W. Armstrong,” he reminisces. “He had some conflicting statements that I couldn’t agree with so I asked to quit receiving the pamphlets from him. They were confusing to me.”
Not long after, he stumbled on It is Written, in those days hosted by George Vandeman, and was thrilled. “I sent for the weekly pamphlets to read.”
Meanwhile, Peterson was attending a little church in Colorado called the Swedish Covenant Church. “I preached for them—and did so out of the pamphlets from It Is Written. When I got to the Sabbath message, I told them that would be my last time to attend the church because I was convinced about the seventh-day Sabbath. They tried to talk me out of leaving but I had to follow my conscience. I told them, ‘I no longer can return to this church because I believe in the Sabbath.’”
Peterson had a close call at the age of 60. After smoking nearly all his life up to that point, he had congestive heart failure and had half a lung removed.
“The Lord was guiding me all the way through this and I am grateful to Him for that,” he says. Peterson has committed himself to helping in as many ways as possible, teaching and singing even through the challenges that come with age.
Pete and Marcella continue to leave their mark on the Torrington church. They have been great mentors, and our members praise God for their marvelous gifts and loving natures and are thankful for having them in our lives!
–Darlene Willard and her husband Bob live in Torrington, Wyoming, where in “retirement” they spend much time tending their beautiful garden and helping their family, friends and neighbors.