Picture: Fred Mauk

Fred Mauk was a longtime organist at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church in Altamonte Springs. (Provided / March 31, 2013)

When St. Mark's Presbyterian Church couldn't afford a new pipe organ, Fred Stewart Mauk had an idea: Why not find a used one?

Mauk, organist at the Altamonte Springs church, kept his eyes peeled and in 1986 found a used pipe organ for sale at a church in South Carolina. He drove there, dismantled the instrument, transported it to Central Florida and rebuilt it for his congregation.

Mauk died of cancer April 7, two weeks shy of his 83rd birthday. Fittingly for a man who devoted his life to music, friends will sing at a service in his honor this weekend at St. Mark's. Mauk played the organ there for 33 years, retiring in 2011.

Among the organ works to be performed is St. Anne's Fugue, by Johann Sebastian Bach. It's a piece Mauk requested, said longtime friend and organist Tom DeWitt of Leesburg.

"Every time he had a bad medical report, he'd tell me to start working on it," said DeWitt, who will play the fugue. Comments such as that were typical of Mauk's comic disposition.

"He had a wonderful sense of humor," DeWitt said, "and he was a master of sarcasm."

Mauk's humor helped him get along with everyone, Dewitt said: "We knew each other for 30 years and never had a disagreement. It was an amazing friendship."

Born in Melbourne, Mauk graduated from Orlando Senior High School. He attended Stetson University in DeLand before completing a music degree at Rollins College in Winter Park. After a stint in the Army, he studied at the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he received a master's degree in 1958. Also a vocalist, Mauk both played the organ and sang in the New York area.

He was just 16 when he landed his first church organist job, at First Methodist Church in Mount Dora. During his long career, he served as organist, music director and choral director at churches in South Carolina, North Carolina and Missouri. He also was an organist and choral director at Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Mo., and a faculty member at Wayne Community College in Goldsboro, N.C. He returned to Central Florida in 1978 and took up his position at St. Mark's.

In 1993, Mauk was put in charge of the biennial convention of the Southeastern chapter of the American Guild of Organists. About 300 organists and members of the public gathered for a week of recitals, seminars and workshops.

"It was a very successful convention that made a lot of money," DeWitt said. "The chapter lived off the profits of that for several years."

The success was because of Mauk's combination of skill and charm, DeWitt said. "He was a great organizer, but more important, he worked well with people."

Mauk also took pride in his home and yard, DeWitt said, and he had a love of old cars, owning a Buick LaSalle. Mauk would travel to old-car shows throughout the country.

Still, the organ he found and rebuilt for St. Mark's remained a highlight of his life.

"He built that pipe organ on will alone," said Ken Stoops, another friend of Mauk's. "I'm an organist and I couldn't have built one. Fred would say, 'Oh it was nothing, really.'"

Mauk is survived by brother-in-law William Nuckols and nephew Kenneth Nuckols, both of Altamonte Springs. Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

mpalm@tribune.com