Mack Williams: Yet another homecoming at Saint Paul’s

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 25, 2016

Barry Manilow used to sing: “It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve” on televised New Year’s Eve shows.

On Sept. 11, my friend Rita and I traveled to my home church of Saint Paul’s Lutheran, where I sang again at yet another Homecoming (singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”).

Special speaker Pastor Eddie Pless gave a fine sermon, and both choirs’ singing was beautiful as always, with most wonderful nuances of expression (that “makes” a song). Choir director Jared Gordon continues to do a wonderful job with them.

I enjoyed working with organist/pianist Johnsie Taylor again! When I first sang there, on Christmas Eve, 1972, Riley Burton was the organist.

Neither Johnsie nor the pipe organ have put on weight, but the Homecoming soloist could stand to loose some.

The Homecoming meal’s covered dishes were revealed in “uncovered glory,” and now in my mind’s eye (connected to “mind’s stomach,” or vice-versa), I still see what I didn’t have room for on plate or in stomach at the time.
John Canup and I talked about his late father, Harley, as well as Paul Ritchie, Cecil Bernhardt, W.A. Cline, “Pud” Lyerly, John Earnhardt, Bernard Williams and others, the “supporting columns of community” where we grew up on the Old Concord Road.

Terry Beeker and I had that same conversation, also recalling my mother’s (Lorraine Williams) friendship with his mother, Ada Ruth Beeker. When speaking of “Red Eyes,” Saint Paul’s “rite of passage” ghost, Terry’s wife remembered, too (“Red Eyes” was not just a “little boy thing”) but if it had been twilight, we would have been afraid to mention it.

Vickie Sanders was there, along with her mother, Sybill Athey, who hugged me and said my white hair was just like my mother’s (an old man’s hair reminding a beautiful, sweet lady of another beautiful, sweet lady).

Joyce Wilhelm said hello (another beautiful, sweet lady with beautiful white hair).

I caught up with Barbara Upright. I started to mention her cousin, the late Esther Rufty Hodgin, but didn’t; because when doing so, our eyes become highly reflective liquid pools.

I talked with Tim Deal and Pastor Floyd W. Bost. Tim married Karen, Floyd and Bonnie’s daughter, the case of a good man marrying into the family of another good man!

Phil Redding said “Don’t forget to write!” (not the U.S. Mail, but in the Salisbury Post about Saint Paul’s).

Others speaking about those “great men and women of the neighborhood” serves as “corroboration” that my viewing that place as “special” isn’t unique. Although of different families, we all share that “Old Concord Road DNA” (a “two-lane strand,” untwisted, mostly straight, with some gentle curves).

Another connection: Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church!

Afterwards, Rita and I went to Dunn’s Mountain, discovering that Bill Gilland, gentleman and docent there, had recently passed away. The younger man who had taken his place told me that the other gentleman there, Bob Peeler, was away for the day (I can’t remember whether at a wedding or funeral). From this man’s personality, Bob’s personality, and that of the late Bill, I deduced that only true gentlemen can become docents at Dunn’s mountain.

He said Grandfather Mountain was visible from Dunn’s Mountain that day. My brother Joe has seen it there many times before, but one past time when we were both there, the “haze” didn’t cooperate. When I looked through the large binoculars, the “docent-gentleman” said to look further up above the horizon. There it was, that characteristic silhouette, looking huge! (Not surprising, for after all, it’s Grandfather Mountain!)

A man there complimented me on my Homecoming solo. He and his wife had come from up North, and, finding a warm reception at Saint Paul’s, became members (“corroboration” of what I earlier said).

I wondered about Grandfather Mountain’s later sunset shadow possibly surviving as a few “molecules of darkness” mixed into the night of the communities lined up with its summit.

From its great height, I imagined Grandfather always watching “parts East,” and perhaps giving a “glance” northeastward toward me, a native Tarheel in Danville, Virginia.

As Rita and I descended the walking trail, we met a man visiting the area for a family reunion. When I told him of my original “neighborhood,” he said he had known some of the same people there as a child and had wished then that he could have lived there on the Old Concord Road (more “corroboration” from another stranger!).

To paraphrase Barry Manilow: “It wasn’t just another Homecoming at Saint Paul’s,” because that day is always unique, spent in a unique place with unique friends.

And Phil, I didn’t forget.

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