By Frances Stebbins, Correspondent
[This is a memory from the many decades the author has been privileged to write for daily and weekly newspapers circulating in Western Virginia.]
My column of last week, “Old Hymns Stir Memory,” generated a number of responses, for indeed music, whether religious or secular, tends to bring people together.
When I spoke with retired local organist, choir director and composer Richard Cummins, he told me that the two musical daughters he and his singer wife Rita produced are making their successful ways in big cities far from Roanoke. They are still, however, much a part of the memories of those who knew Stephanie and Cenovia when their father was director of music at downtown Roanoke’s Greene Memorial United Methodist Church.
Stephanie, the elder, and a cellist, is in London and performing with some notable people. Cenovia, who is three years younger, continues with an active musical life in New York. She’s a violinist. The four musical members of the Cummins family made a CD, ”Four of a Kind” in 2002 in which Rita, soprano soloist; Stephanie, cellist; Cenovia, violinist, and Richard, organist and pianist all share.
Thinking further of musicians, I discovered in a sister paper, ”The Fincastle Herald” the obituary of Lucille Painter Graybill of Troutville. Known as “Cille,” Graybill was involved in the sacred music of Troutville Baptist Church for 75 years as an organist and choir director.
Learning of her long tenure, I interviewed the musician some 10 years ago when she was still active in the congregation. I recall her vivacity and sharp mind. She was widely connected to old Botetourt families and taught music and other subjects at Troutville High School. She and her late husband, E.A. Graybill, owned for a time Rader Funeral Home; she was the pianist for services held there.
The life of Lucille Painter Graybill further proves my contention that people whose spirit or “reason for being” depends on one of the arts are often productive well into their nineties. I’ve seen this in musicians, artists and writers, dancers perhaps somewhat less so although no doubt the grace of body they display keeps their joints limber.
Recently, I enjoyed a brief visit from my daughter, Julie Stebbins Bordelon, and her husband, Gary. Now looking to retirement from a 42-year career in mortgage banking, she lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Husband Gary, a skillful carpenter by avocation, is already out of fulltime work and living at a small cottage they renovated in a camping park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The couple traveled north in late September to visit snowbird friends in Buffalo, New York, and to see the nearby Niagara Falls. They traveled home southward by way of Cleveland, Ohio and Salem.
My daughter did not follow her news writer parents into a literary career. Instead, she apparently inherited the ability to manage money. In that she followed her paternal grandfather, Charles (Halifax) Stebbins, the long-time cashier of a bank in South Boston, Virginia, until it failed in 1931 and indirectly caused his death.
Having become an orphan at 19 – I had lost my father to tuberculosis and my mother to heart disease – I am grateful daily to have a daughter with whom to live my tenth decade. My own mother never in her life knew such satisfaction.
What’s a “Plawker’?
Seeing reference to this unfamiliar word several times recently, I called the helpful office manager at Oak Grove Church of the Brethren where its newsletter revealed that the church was joining others in a cleanup project in Southeast Roanoke.
She told me that it’s a coined expression made up of “picking up litter while walking slowly” through a specific area. There are several neighborhood groups active around the Roanoke Valley, I was told.
The Greenways are popular places to look for litter as well as empty spaces in cities, especially in older neighborhoods like Southeast which dates from the early years of the Twentieth Century when it was a flourishing industrial part of the young city of Roanoke.
A good pair of gloves and joints that don’t creak too much will help you do your part at beautification.