A Family Funeral Home

Marilyn K. Stulken Rench

August 13, 1941 - December 28, 2021
Racine, WI



Friday, June 17, 2022
3:00 PM CDT
Live Stream
St. Luke's Episcopal Church
614 Main Street
Racine, WI 53403


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
614 Main Street
Racine, WI 53403

Life Story / Obituary


Marilyn Kay Stulken Rench – organist, teacher, recitalist, historian, author, and genealogist – died at the age of 80 at Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital in Franklin, WI, on Tuesday, December 28, 2021.

Marilyn was born on August 13, 1941, in Hastings, NE, to Leon and Lenora (Katzberg) Stulken. Raised on a farm, she attended grades 1 through 8 at a one-room country schoolhouse down the road from the family home. Comfortable operating farm machinery, even at a very young age, Marilyn knew about and loved all of the old tractors, including steam tractors, especially Case steam tractors. She was interested in other old farm equipment as well – threshing machines, grain drills, and even manure spreaders. She had a broad knowledge of old cars of all kinds, including Stanley Steamers, the old electrics, Model T’s, the Case cars, and on and on.

Marilyn had a life-long love of cats; when she was bedridden with rheumatic fever in ninth grade, her mom made an exception to the rule of “no cats in the house” to allow Chubby the cat in to keep Marilyn company. She credited a good teacher of the two tailoring courses she took as the reason she was able to sew so many beautiful clothes for herself and others – including the wedding dress she made for her sister, Imogene. Marilyn dove into learning about the history of where and with whom she lived. She had a decades-long fascination with genealogy, sharing with her siblings the exciting results of recent “finds” or DNA matches. She was talented, spirited, and loving, with a generous laugh.

Marilyn studied organ and church music at Hastings College in Hastings, NE, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1963. During this time, she had several piano and organ students and, from 1962 – 1965, served as organist and program director at All Faiths Chapel at Ingleside, NE. At Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, she studied organ performance and church music, earning a Master of Music degree in 1967 and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1975. One of her positions while in Rochester was as a sewing therapist at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Marilyn held a number of church positions, including organist and choir director at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Pittsford, NY (1966 – 1973); organist at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Cedar Rapids, IA (1975 – 1979), director of music at Trinity Lutheran Church in Kenosha, WI (1979 – 1985), and organist at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Racine, WI (1986 to the time of her death). In addition, she taught at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA; the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA; Carthage College in Kenosha, WI; the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, WI, and Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, WI.

On December 27, 1984, in Omaha, NE, Marilyn married Tom Rench, a pipe organ builder. Marilyn often played programs on instruments that Tom had built or restored. As a lecturer and organ recitalist, she appeared throughout the United States and Canada, including ten recitals for national conventions of the Organ Historical Society. Her recitals were imaginatively programmed, offering music other than the standard recital repertoire. After Tom installed a pipe organ in the family room of their home, the instrument was used not only by Marilyn for practicing and selecting music but also for teaching students. When her MS precluded her from any longer playing the pedals, Tom engineered the keyboard at St. Luke’s so that a note played by her left hand could sound that same note on the pedalboard.

Marilyn is the author of the Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1981) and An Introduction to Repertoire and Registration for the Small Organ (1995), and coauthor with Catherine Salika of Hymnal Companion to Worship – Third Edition (1998). She was one of three contributors who assisted in the preparation of historical notes on the hymns in The New Century Hymnal (1995). With Martin A. Seltz and others, she compiled Indexes for Worship Planning (1996), and with James R. Sydnor and Bert Polman, she edited Amazing Grace: Hymn Texts for Devotional Use (1994). She contributed an article on “Hymnody from German, Scandinavian and Finnish Sources” to The New Century Hymnal Companion (1998), and an article on “Hospital Hymnody as Transition Hymnody” to We’ll Shout and Sing Hosanna: Essays on Church Music in Honor of William J. Reynolds (1998). She is the author of the With One Voice Reference Companion (2000). She prepared numerous articles and reviews for many musical journals.

Marilyn was active in the American Guild of Organists, the Organ Historical Society, the Hymn Society of America, and, for a time, was the worship representative on the Southport District Cabinet of the Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Synod of the LCA (Lutheran Church in America).

Marilyn was predeceased by her parents, by an infant brother, by an infant sister, by her husband, and by her stepson, Evan Rench. She is survived by her stepchildren Alan (Mary) Rench, Eric (Bobbie) Rench, and Kari (Jeff) Eschmann; by her grandchildren Michael (Kierstin) Rench, Amy (Justin) Willis, Anthony Rench, John (Wendy) Rench, Linsey (Tim) Wermeling, Robert (Sarah) Eschmann, and Riley Eschmann; by her great-grandchildren Peter Rench, Jacob Rench, Madelyn Rench, Piper Rench, Dylan Jurkiewicz, Marek Wermeling, and Garrett Wermeling; by her siblings Jeanette (Tom) Searson, Imogene Stulken (Bruce Brolsma), and Don (Carol) Stulken; by nephews and nieces Tom Searson (Denise Hegarty), Mike Searson, Stephanie (Jim) McGowan; Scott Stulken (Tara Marsh), David (Megan) Stulken, Laura Stulken, and Kerstin Brolsma; and by grand-nephews Miles Stulken and Magnus Stulken-Marsh.

A memorial service will be held at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 614 Main Street, Friday, June 17, 2022, 3pm CDT with Fr. Seth Raymond officiating. Prelude begins at 2:50 pm CDT

“The service will be live streamed and may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQdMrwgOpQqS6vn68WMxhow.”

Memorials may be sent to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 614 Main Street, Racine, WI 53403.