Our Father died about six months after Lib and I were married. Family and church connections helped my mother to a job at our church college, Bridgewater College. The home she purchased wasnear two sisters and other family. By working at Bridgewater she was able to get tuition for those of my siblings who attended there. The family grew up and exited the nest.
About three decades passed, our families were all going through the married with children stages, busy with careers, getting children through college and then our Mother developed
Alzhimers and later paranoid schizophrenia. We tried to care for her at our Roanoke home
and it quickly became apparent that we didn’t have the resources to meet her needs. Our sister took her to her home near Charlottesville where diagnoses and treatment were begun.She was another woman that with modest resources took care of our Mother for a number of years while her own three girls were growing up. Later, this sister of ours faced down breast cancer and job losses and won out over both. She stands in the proud tradition of Grandmother Garst
and our Mother.
Then during a rather difficult period in my own life due to educational changes occurring in our
school system and the need to put our two daughters through Virginia Tech I was invited to play a dinner at the Greenbrier Resort Hotel, at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. .Soon I was playing a rather dependable gig there. A trio or quartet that we put together also had work there in the summer and Fall. Eventually I ran out of available accompanists . Then, a young lady at our Baptist church was suggested and we began a nearly two
decade stint of frequent gigs there.She became the star and played piano in the main and other dining rooms when I or other violinists were not available. She still is one of the Greenbrier’s dinner pianists.
Her life experiences would make a fine romance novel. She grew up in the South and excelled
at the piano. A failed marriage brought her to Roanoke with three young children. Soon after our work at the Greenbrier began. She became the accompanist for one of the main violinists shortly after her trips there with me . He was nearly 75 years old and taught her many skills…I was the substitute when he was unable to play. A young pilot for one of the regional airlines came into her life and they became engaged. Life was good. Then the fateful day when he and his plane full of passengers crashed and her dreams of life with him perished. A lesser person might have given up. She picked up the pieces and continued on.
The road from Roanoke to White Sulphur Springs is a long lonely one, especially on winter nights. One night when I wasn’t playing she was returning from the gig alone and suddenly there was a bull in the road. She ran into him and she was pinned in her crumpled up car. She was able to use radio to get police and ambulances to find and free her.
It was my pleasure to introduce her to the concertmaster of the Roanoke Symphony. I was
experiencing early hip problems and osteoarthritis in my fingers. Soon he was doing the gigs
and it was time for me to move on. Shortly after they married and have complimented each other since. She is one of the most courageous women I have ever encountered. She continues to bless diners, wait staff, and whoever passes by with her sensitive playing.