Monday, April 30, 2018


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. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018


                                                      PART  1

Facebook and the web have made me aware of some truths that have slowly percolated to the top of my mind especially in my final years. I say this because I am 80 years old and statistically have only a little more time left. 

The impetus for this article was a student in our Patrick Henry HS  orchestra class, which because it is Orchestra is more like a family rather than a class as students often began with me in grade school and stayed through until graduation. I lost track of her until Facebook and somewhere along the line we reconnected. She was a smart student, did well in University and has a career in rocket design for the military in Maryland. She loves riding horses and so has managed to acquire the farm situation which allows her to enjoy her hobby…..except it  seems that she is the one who does most of the physical work such as feeding, grooming, and cleaning stalls, all heavy manual labor!  She has an adult daughter who has a kidney disease  that requires dialysis and frequent trips to the hospital. I am profoundly impressed at this woman’s courage.         

….this led me to think about other women whose lives directly impinged on my own or were 
influential one generation up. My Grandmother Garst was such a woman. She bore at least 8
children, experienced 2 fires which set the family back financially and her farmer/preacher husband died early in life before I was born. My mother and several others lived with other relatives part of their adolescent years. And yet the family lore was upbeat.

My Mother was an attractive young woman and married my father who was not her first suitor.
They married in 1929 or 1930 just after the “Crash of 29” not an auspicious time. She helped put my father through Bridgewater College and he accepted pastorates in the Church of the  Brethren in Highland County and later in Buena Vista, Virginia. In 1937 the really mind blowing decision to do “missionary” work in India was made. Family tales relate that I was 3 months old when they arrived in Bombay and Gujarat. There were dangers from disease, from insects and animals and the possibility of a Japanese invasion of India during World War II. She nursed us through childhood bouts with malaria and at least one motorbike accident by my father before he switched over to horseback. She was the quiet bulwark of the family and if and when she was afraid, never let us see it. It was always smiles! 

There was a second trip to India, something I will never understand. She had at least one very
bad scare when a gang of young men who were angry at Americans invaded the compound 
where she was and threw rocks and epithets at the house one evening when our Father was gone on mission business. 

Our Father’s health deteriorated rapidly and they were advised to cut short their work and return to America. Again, it was the quiet courage of our Mother that helped our family of 7 get safely home. There was luggage to pack, health papers to complete,
ship tickets to arrange, many items that as a 15 year old I was not privy to. 

Lib and I married in 1956 and she helped put me through college and graduate school. Our beginnings were very similar to how my parents began their married lives.  I see this praise of courageous women being in several installments…so stay tuned! Just don't want to overwhelm you, dear reader, with my story all at once. 

Monday, October 30, 2017


A Canadian high came through Brandermill last night and swept away the muggy summer air of 60 F. and replaced it with cystal clear chilly  middle 40’s F. Very invigorating and just calling out to be walked through. I call it a “Landour” morning and if you brows through my earlier blogs you’ll understand.

The leaves are beginning to peak now. Right after breakfast I donned a pullover jacket, grabbed my cane and was out the front door at a brisk pace for an oldster of 80. The sky was deep blue, there was a little breeze, and the sun shining through translucent leaves of yellow, orange, and red created the feeling of being in an outdoor cathedral where the leaves were the stained glass windows. The first third of the walk was nearly effortless as I rounded the upper loop of our neighborhood. 

The second third I began to walk a less ambitious  gait  as half of it was a slight climb. Still I was enjoying the brisk air and scenery. All that lacked  was the scent of oak smoke from a myriad fireplaces around the Landour chukkar. This evening I expect to inhale that as some of our neighbors light up theirs. Yes, even though “gas” logs are the clean heat, nothing quite replaces the aroma and feel of real wood burning and it is the preferred choice of many.

The final third was another loop. My legs were beginning to tell me to slow down, that I wasn’t 40 or 50 years old. That can be disheartening, but I was grateful for the memories of many Landour strolls around the chukkar; to Sister’s bazaar and Kellog’s church, while ancient deodars whispered mysterious secrets among themselves. And then if it was a morning like this, a break in the forest would reveal the snow covered peaks of the high Himalayas, breath takingly beautiful and forever beyond reach for the young school boy I was then.  Now a click on YouTube and I may vicariously touch their hems. 

How wonderful to be alive this morning, to experience a super morning enhanced by memories

that make it even more joyfuy. Thank you Lord!!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


On Saturday morning Oct 21st, 2017  Lib and I started our morning about 6:30  in preparation for our trip to Roanoke.  It was a beautiful day for a long three hour drive and after breakfast we were on the road from Midlothian to Salem, Virginia.  Somewhere near Lynchburg a deer ran in front of us from the median. I braked hard and the deer swerved! Glad there was no one directly behind us. We made our usual pit stop at the Welcome Center at the Bedford War Memorial. 

About an hour later we were pulling up in front of the Roanoker Restaurant on Colonial Ave. near Towers Shopping Center. It is a venerable Roanoke eatery that serves food as it would  be prepared at home. We both had salads to stay on our successful diet. b Next we visited the  Steiger shop to pick up a few Christmas items.

We thought we might see some friends at Oak Grove Church of the Brethren and found a number of cars in the parking lot. Turns out it was their Fall Bazaar so we were able to see and visit with many  we had known for the five years we were there.

I was supposed to meet my accompanist at Green Hill at 4:00 pm  and arrived at the church around 3:40 to find thr parking lot full of cars! Looked like a wedding or a funeral! There was no hearse  so sort of guessed a wedding.  Sure enough the bridal party soon emerged. My accompanist Steven Wills, church organist, drove in around 3:55. We went in a side door and had a good rehearsal in the choir room for about half an hour. 

Dan and Eleanor Brogan good friends for many years had invited us to stay with them overnight so there wouldn’t be the long drive from Roanoke on the day of the celebration. She served us a nice homey supper and we spent the evening revisiting memories and renewing our knowledge of our families and friends. It never ends as each time there is a new layer.

Next morning brefore breakfast I went out on a porch that overlooks their backyard. Ellie was busy filling her bird feeders and 
we were making small chat about deer when suddenly a trio of them ran in a diagonal trail behind her. Such lovely animals! 

The church building has had additions and remodeling done and it is very different from what it
was when I was there as  a young boy and later as a teen ager for a couple of years. My grandfather Kinzie donated the land, was a preacher during the " free preacher "time of that era and I discovered that my grandfather Garst was also associated with Green Hill.  Our District Executive, David Schumate preached the morning sermon. I played a version of “Simple Gifts” accompanied by Stephen Wills the church’s keyboard musician. Jean Garst asked if I would also play on the hymns and kindly set up my hymnal with clips  to indicate easily where in the book they were. 

Afterwards those  who stayed were treated to a carry in lunch. In my humble opinion this feature is one of the aspects of the church that has kept it from fading away altogether.  I had an opportunity to share  hospital experiences with our  District Executive 
who had a long and dangerous illness from which he finally recovered. 

The afternoon service was devoted to music and memories from those who had been asked 
or who volunteered. I played the last movement of the 3rd Handel sonata for violin and piano 
in F major. A past organist played several works and a professional singer who had attended Green Hill also provided a lovely song. 

Green Hill Church of the Brethren near Salem, Virginia
My association with Green Hill though slight has been a meaningful part of my life. It was during my adolescent two years there that I became a member of the Roanoke Symphony which much later opened the door for my lifetime work as Strings teacher in the Roanoke City Schools primarily at Patrick Henry High School.

 When we returned to the Church of the Brethren it would be after our families were grown. Oak Grove was near our home and the first Sunday we visited there we were warmly greeted by a boyhood friend, Dan Brogan. His family were staunch Green Hill members but like many.  moving out of the community and marriage brought his family to Oak Grove. 

Here is a link to the 100th anniversary celebration
Sanctuary on Sunday of Celebration

Sunday, September 10, 2017

NOAC 2017

Here it is another Fall season and every other year we have been going to Lake Junaluska for the Church of the Brethren National Older Adults Conference. It is for adults 50 years and older and is designed to challenge us to be active for good, to reflect the values seen in the life of Jesus to the generations that follow.  Lake Junaluska Conference Center in the mountains of North Carolina is a  Methodist enclave that can handle large meetings. We had roughly 850 there this time.

It's a pleasant place especially for older adults who have problems with mobility. The scenery is gorgeous, the meals are nourishing and tasty, and the topics are timely. 

Inspiration 2017, National Older Adult Conference - Church of the Brethren...

Boat ride that informs of the history of Lake Junaluska

Terrace Hotel where we stayed

Squadron of geese one afternoon as the sun was low...

Lake Junaluska from our room...

One of the hundreds of roses on the Rose Walk beside the lake...

Lake Junaluska with fog wisps at breakfast....

Friday, April 28, 2017


Thursday, December 27, 2012


I posted this a number of years ago and then found a photographer friend's comment 
about her recently. Tried to find it in my list of blogs but it didn't show, so Googled it...
and there it was. So, I copied and pasted it for anyone interested. 
Retook the picture as that had been deleted also. 

I found her in an Indian shop at Estes Park a number of years ago on the way home from a Woodstock Old Students Association conference. Hand carved wood statues have always attracted me, and she was sort of in a back corner when I spotted her.

Several things drew my attention. Looking closely at the work showed some skill had gone into her creation. There were exquisitely carved details. She was a musician playing an Indian instrument resembling a guitar. She stood about 8 inches tall and would work well with the few others in my collection. Her name was Saraswati, according to the paper that came with her,and was the Hindu goddess of music, science, and knowledge to name a few of her attributes. In the Hindu mythology she  was present and necessary at the Creation.

Wikipedia has a large and interesting article about her. As an American musician who lived his childhood in India reading about Saraswati was fascinating. In articles about the mind and intelligence the inference is often that musical study and performance enhance mental abilities.In Genesis a musician is named early on with others who had important skills. Recently a newspaper article related the finding of a bone flute that appeared to be 30,000 years old.So music has apparently been associated with our humanity prominently for quite some time.

During this season of merriment and music she reminds me of the mystical emergence of music in the human mind and its importance for our health and happiness.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

January 2017 First Snow

a neighboring home across from ours
some snow laden pine branches
about 6 " on the mailbox
Our home in the afternoon light Saturday.....
After the visit to the Lewis Ginter Gardens we had routine Thursday ....and then came the big snow all day Saturday the 7th of January followed by a deep freeze cold...The snow and cold cancelled church services and provided extra time to take down the Christmas tree and pack most of the decorations away until next year.
Sunday afternoon Cathy, Jeff and Devin came over and finished the digging out process and we had time for a nice long visit. We have another night of brutal cold and then Tuesday it is supposed to thaw.