Bob Delk was born in 1922 into a family of musicians. Now 100 years old, he and his Les Paul Gibson guitar are still found once a month jamming with the other musicians at the Senior Center in Hillsboro, Kansas. When Bob was a teenager, the Delk family’s neighbors invited them to a revival at their church. The whole family responded to the call of salvation and were baptized in 1938. He has been a part of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro ever since. This summer he celebrated his 100th birthday with a couple of concerts for the church and community.
How did you get started playing?
I was 12 when my dad showed me a few chords on the ukulele or banjo and it wasn’t long before our family had a little group. Dad played violin, Mom played dobro, my sister Betty played piano, and I played a four-string banjo. In those days there was no TV or other entertainment so the school districts would have a program once a month. Our family played for every school house around. When we joined the church we started playing almost every Sunday, too.
What’s your favorite kind of music?
I play country western, gospel and big band. I like them all and know a lot of songs. I could play all night and never play the same song.
What kind of groups have you played with?
I’ve played with some top-notch gospel quartets, and I was in the band for the Mennonite Men’s Chorus for about 15 years. Early on, The Peabody Plainsmen invited me to play with them at the Marion County Fair. I stayed with that group for some 60 years. I accompanied The Singspirationals, a mixed vocal quartet, and we traveled around eastern Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma almost every weekend. We even played in Lansing women’s prison and Leavenworth men’s prison.
Is it hard to play at 100 years old?
I’m getting arthritis. Sometimes I soak my hands to get them limbered up. I have to practice for a half hour to an hour every day. If I wouldn’t play for a week I’d be done.
What keeps you going?
I got connected with a lady who plays in the symphony and has played her cello all over the world. She wanted to get together to jam. We’ve played for meetings and at Starbucks and Wendy’s and we did a Senior Center fundraiser concert for my birthday. I might have quit by now, but playing with her gave me this new excitement.
How does music connect with your faith?
In Bible times they’d always celebrate special things with music. We’re not so far off from that with our gospel music. I hope heaven will have a lot of music. I want to try to take my guitar along.
Kathy Heinrichs Wiest is a freelance writer who loves the smell of whole wheat bread in the oven, the feel of an orange being plucked from the tree and the view from her front porch in Kingsburg, California. On Sunday mornings you’ll find her in the fourth pew from the front on the left at Kingsburg MB Church, moved by the hymns and praise songs and inspired by the stories of God at work locally and around the world. She and her husband, Steve, own Dovetail Remodeling. They have two grown daughters, one son-in-law and a precious granddaughter.