Editor, The Messenger:
We would like to pay tribute to Bishopville Church of Christ for the wonderful singing and hymns during the church service we attended when we visited Burr Oak in April.
We tracked down the church pianist, LaVerne Humphrey, and she gave us a few words on her role with the church. She has been the pianist there for almost 50 years, beginning her role as pianist at the church when she was 16 years old.
Her favorite hymn is “Above All,” which tells the story of the Crucifixion of Christ and what He did for each of us. Of the tune, LaVerne said, “It gives me a good feeling; playing music is a pleasure I enjoy!”
Her first piano, she recalls, came at 9 years old. Soon after her sister, JaVon, and LaVerne asked their mother if they could take piano lessons. The two sisters would walk in the Glouster neighborhood, and they spotted a Cable piano through the glass door of one house; the parents inquired as to if the piano was for sale, and the resident agreed to sell the piano to the family.
The piano launched a life of church and music. In the fourth grade, LaVerne expanded her musical abilities by taking up the clarinet. Ever since she asked her mother for piano lessons, she has had no trouble practicing; she asked for lessons and has been exercising her fingers ever since.
If her family encouraged her to follow music, it was her father, Joseph, who played the harmonica by ear. He played, “Red River Valley,” “Grandfather’s Clock,” and “The Train,” LaVerne remembers. Joseph ran Kittle Farm Supply, a farm and feed store in Glouster.
In the summer, the sisters lived on a farm and cherished days of canning, gardening, and staying in a cabin in Bishopville. This was nearby to their grandparents, Deslar and Julia Kittle, who owned a bait shop near Dock Number 2 in Bishopville.
After she married her husband, Gary, the two of them joined the Bishopville Bluegrass Gospel Band at the church in 1974. Today, LaVerne sings alto in the band, and Gary plays banjo, mandolin, Dobro and violin by ear. The music has kept them together and made a life of contentment. The two will be celebrating their 45th anniversary this year.
Two of her children took lessons under her direction. She has four children altogether. At a musical highpoint, children Heidi (daughter) and Chris (son) joined LaVerne at the bench in a recital piece for six hands. The other children, Gary Jr. and Jessica, urge the family’s musicality on. Gary Jr. is a minister.
It was impressive that an instructor from Ohio University would have a role in shaping their musical skills. They were glad for the instruction, as this was a recital at the university level. They wanted to please the instructor.
“We had to practice our own parts, and then put them together,” LaVerne remembers. “We had six hands playing all at once.”
If she is to be remembered for something, however, it is to be remembered as a practicing Christian. “The most important thing for me is to live a Christian life and become part of the community,” she said.
One way she serves as mentor to teens is through her leadership in Teen Impact, where she encourages teenagers to become acquainted with scripture, as well as present a service at least twice a year at the church with music and a message.
One thing for sure: Bishopville Church of Christ is a staple of the community; LaVerne and her family have dedicated themselves to putting faith on the map. Many of the community follow their example. Minister John Wright sees over the community, the church flock, and LaVerne takes musical flight to the stars.
Diane Fencl and