A song in her heart for life

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My mother, Corinne Herndon, played piano at her church for 57 years. After moving to a nursing home, nurses wheeled her to the piano where she played hymns for other residents.

My mother loved serving God and singing about Him

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

I can’t tell you much about the first real gospel concert I remember attending but I can tell you my mother and her sister were both worked up about it.

It was back in 1965 when this 7-year-old tagged along to see The Prophets at the American Legion Fairgrounds in Lawrenceburg, Ky. Of course, we’d heard local groups sing at revivals and other church functions, but The Prophets were just different. We’d heard them on radio and seen them on TV. This was big time!

And Mom and her sister, who I called Aunt Myrt, were more than ready to hear Big Lew Garrison sing tenor.

(Little did I know until nearly 50 years later that I had seen one of my favorite singers of all time, a 22-year-old Duane Allen, singing baritone. A year later, Allen joined the Oak Ridge Boys and has been their Ace lead singer ever since, becoming a Hall of Famer in both gospel and country music.)

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My mother was known as The Singing Lady at Heritage Hall Nursing Home.

My mother loved hymns. She loved gospel music. She loved playing piano and singing about the God she loved and served simply by serving others.

She passed away last week, going to meet her Lord after 89 years of serving Him. She’d played piano at Corinth Christian Church for 57 years and sat at the piano bench for countless weddings and funerals. Before prerecorded tracks became common, whenever someone wanted to sing a song at Corinth, and sometimes other churches, he or she would call Mom to accompany on the piano.

During her funeral celebration, her current minister, Matt Sawyer, noted that her obituary said she was a lifelong member of Corinth. He said that was not exactly right. I wondered where he was going with that until he said she was a “pillar” of her church.

She worked for state government and helped farm over 200 acres where we had a few hogs and about 50 cows. When the farm work was done, she traveled all over central Kentucky to see local groups like The Mel-O-Tones, The Salt River Quartet or a group of teens who called themselves The Gospel Alliance.

And several times a year, Mom and Aunt Myrt would head to Louisville or Lexington to hear The Oak Ridge Boys, The Blackwood Brothers, The Florida Boys or some other big-name gospel group.

Mom and oaks

My mother, Corinne Herndon, was surprised when I took her to meet one of her favorite singing groups, The Oak Ridge Boys, at Campbellsville University in 2014. It was the last major event she attended before entering a nursing home. In front are my daughter, Kenzi Herndon and Corinne Herndon. Back row, from left, Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban.

Loving God, serving him and singing about him was her life. As long as I remember, gospel music and hymns were what she lived for.

When a parent dies, it’s easy to paint the picture of a perfect person. I won’t do that. Like everyone, Mom had her faults and shortcomings. She was imperfect, even though I liked to tell her she had the perfect son!

She usually told me to “sit down and hush.” And I would laugh.

But I know that Mom truly loved music about her Lord. She’d sing “Rock of Ages” as a lullaby to her children and grandchildren or just break into a hymn for no particular reason.

As she got older and had to depend on others to transport her, Mom still loved traveling to see The Isaacs, Triumphant Quartet or Guy Penrod.

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My mother loved having the opportunity to see Guy Penrod in 2013.

And she sang. She sang at every possible occasion and then some. If you visited the nursing home, chances were that you would hear her singing “Amazing Grace” or “I Come to the Garden Alone” or “I Know” long before you saw her.

Shortly before she passed into eternity, the nursing home called my family to her side. She was gasping for breath and in obvious pain, but my daughter pulled up a hymns station on Pandora in an effort to comfort her grandmother in her final hours. We were not sure if Mom even understood the music until a recording of Elvis began playing.

My daughter got closer and sang too.

And we could see Mom’s lips moving. There was very little sound, but it was easy to see what Mom was trying to say.

Then sings my soul, My Savior, God, to thee,

How Great Thou Art…..

All I could say was, “Wow! What a testimony for Him!”

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The Isaacs were one of Mom’s favorite groups. She was thrilled to meet Ben Isaacs after a concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church in 2014.

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