Lowcountry music legend honored on 90th birthday

CHARLESTON — A Mass of Thanksgiving for the 90th birthday of Virginia Bellinger Sturcken was celebrated at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist July 2.

Sturcken served churches in Charleston in musical capacities for over 75 years. She was organist and choir director at St. Joseph’s Church on Anson Street for 25 years. When the church was closed, she became the organist and choir director at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and remained there until her retirement in 1995.

Over the years, Sturcken has been an active member of the American Guild of Organists and has worked as its dean. She has played in many of the churches of Charleston, and continues to play the organ for Masses and funerals in her retirement.

Sturcken began her musical career by playing the organ for silent movies at the Pastime Amusement Company and also performing during the intermissions for plays at the Victory Theater.

She was born in Branchville on July 2, 1908, the last of six children of Francis Fishburne Bellinger and May Black Bellinger.

In 1926, she married Henry Tracy Sturcken, deceased, and is the mother of five children: Henry Tracy Sturcken Jr., deceased; Francis William Sturcken; Virginia Sturcken Bachem; James Joseph Sturcken; and Teresa Sturcken Riley. She is also the grandmother of nine and the great-grandmother of six.

The celebrant at the Mass of Thanksgiving was Msgr. Charles H. Rowland, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Columbia, with priests of the Diocese of Charleston as concelebrants. Music was provided for the liturgy by a combined choir of friends and former choir members who sang under Sturcken’s direction throughout the years. The choir was led by Teresa Riley, Sturcken’s daughter.

Bishop David B. Thompson gave the closing comments at the service.