(The pictures are the link for the other sections)

Revised 26 December, 2009


I come from a long line of musicians.  My Uncle Billy played the theater organ.   He could listen to something on the radio and play it back note perfect even though totally blind.   My mother sang, danced and played the piano.  Her mother thought she would be the next Shirley Temple.   My sister could pick up any instrument brought to her and play it as though she had played the instrument all her life, even though she had never had a lesson in her life.  My grandmother’s brother, Osborn, was a concert violinist.  He and his wife, traveled on the vaudeville circuit.  Aunt Thelma was a concert pianist.  They were an excellent team.  It was unfortunate that Uncle Osborn died at a very young age from encephalitis.  A strange story surrounds his death, which, although not a part of this story, was of interest to me.

It is said that just prior to his entering the hospital, one of the orderlies was cleaning the room preparatory to his arrival.  He died shortly thereafter arrival.  My grandmother was so upset at the loss of her beloved brother that someone talked her into attending a séance so she could tell him goodbye. 

At that séance, my grandmother entered into conversation with another participant and was told this odd story.  It appears that the woman in question was the orderly who had cleaned the room for Osborn.  This woman was seeking an answer as to what had occurred.  According to the woman, she was cleaning the room and a tiny woman dressed in quaint clothing and wearing a Quaker’s bonnet entered the room and approached the bed.  The woman indicates she asked the Quaker lady what she wanted as the room was then empty.  The Quaker did not respond.  She walked to the bed and began walking around it, smoothing the covers as she went.  The orderly again asked her if there was anything that was wanted, and again, she was ignored and the Quaker continued to walk slowly around the bed smoothing the covers as she went.  Since no response was being given as to the Quaker’s intent, the orderly indicated that she went into the bathroom to clean the facilities there.  She came out one last time,, as the Quaker was reaching the top of the other side of the bed and before she could ask her question again, the Quaker lady vanished into thin air.  The Orderly indicated that a young man was admitted later that morning and that he died that evening.  When my grandmother asked the young man’s name she was stunned to learn that it had been her brother.  For those who read my genealogy pages, you might know that one of our gr. Gr. Grandmothers was a Quaker.  It is said that when someone dies, a loved one comes to smooth the way.  And that is what we like to believe happened.

But the subject here is music and not the strange and unusual.  Aunt Thelma, his wife, is the true subject of my story.  She was easy to spot…or not, since she only stood about four and a half feet tall on the best of days.  The family joke was that if you ever saw a car driving down the road and it looked like nobody was driving it, it was probably our Aunt Thelma.  She had perfected the fine art of driving while looking between the steering wheel and the dashboard because there was no way, even sitting on pillows, that Aunt Thelma could ever have seen over the wheel.

Aunt Thelma was full of life, full of fun, and full of music.  She had more talent in her little finger than most people had in their entire bodies.  A visit to Aunt Thelma was anticipated with relish.  If her daughter, Patsy, was there, we knew we could cajole them into a Rachmaninoff piano duet at the very least.  Patsy was as gifted a pianist as was her mother.  To hear them play together was a great treat.  My father, to her embarrassment, one day came to the door and shouted a hello, receiving a response that he should wait until she picked up her girdle.  The greeting he gave from that day forward, upon arrival at her door, was to shout in and ask her if she had her girdle picked up so he could come in.

Through her years in playing in the theater, Aunt Thelma had accumulated boxes upon boxes of wonderful old sheet music dating back to the likes of Fanny Brice and Al Jolson and many of the other greats and she probably played on the same stage with many of their contemporaries..  My mother, a talent in her own right, had learned many of these songs as a young girl.  (Mom had her own radio show in high school over one of the San Francisco stations…about a 15 minute bit each afternoon after school.)  The wonderful thing about those boxes is that we were free to dig through them at will and pick the ones we wanted to sing.  Aunt Thelma would accompany us on the piano and we would take turns with solos and family ensembles, until the sun went down and we reluctantly packed up in the old Buick for the long drive back home.  We couldn’t  wait to visit again. 

Aunt Thelma’s sons had a talent in and of themselves, mostly for getting into mischief.  I suspect the caper that took the cake was when they decided to enter into a bareback hog riding contest.  The hogs didn’t think much of the idea, but was great fun, and you can keep the smell, thank you very much.

Aunt Thelma believed herself to be a jinx.  After Osborn died, she remarried.  Her second husband died tragically shortly after the marriage.  She married a third time.  Again, the marriage ended in death after only six months of joy.  When Uncle Justin asked her to marry him, she was terrified.  She thought she would be the death of yet another wonderful and loving man.  My grandmother finally convinced her it would be ok and told her that obviously Aunt Thelma was ultimately meant to receive a portion of the joy she had so frequently brought to others.  She and Uncle Justin lived many happy years together before death again knocked on her door and took him home to God.

I learned more about music and the joy of unsuppressed song from Aunt Thelma than just about any other person on this earth.  I would not have missed knowing her for the world.  Her unselfishness in sharing her talents with others and her willingness to always teach this joy to others brought the gift of song to many people over the years, some of whom probably would never have been exposed to the experience but for her.

Sing each song with joy.  Read each line with understanding.  Give of your song that others may attune themselves in spirit and above all else, as one of our music directors, Dr. Jonathan Talberg, always says….”never sing beyond the beauty of the note and never, ever, sing louder than lovely.”