The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

No Sad Songs

By J. Carlton Smith © 1990

Issue: August, 1990

Vera (Joyce) Smith. She was fondly known as "Beatie."Vera (Joyce) Smith. She was fondly known as "Beatie."The church began to fill early as people knew that soon all the seats would be taken. The soft funeral music brought tears to many eyes as the people sat in hushed reverence. The minister began the service with a prayer and the choir sang an old favorite of the church, "Oh For A Thousand Tongues To Sing."

We were paying tribute and saying good-bye to one of the finest Christians it had been my privilege to know. She was fondly known as "Beatie" by her many friends and associates. She was given this nickname as a child and it had gone with her through life. Her real name was Vera Joyce Smith.

What a wonderful and eventful life it had been! She joined the church early in life and her life had been spent in Christian service. Beatie had been blessed with singing talent. To go with this, she had a peaches and cream complexion and beautiful sparkling brown eyes. Her hair, which became white early in life, framed her face like a halo, giving her an angelic appearance.

When she was young, she and two young girls formed a gospel singing trio that became well known over a wide area of North Carolina and Virginia. They were known as The Smith Memorial Trio. They sang in brush arbors, tents, churches, auditoriums, radio and television. They went anywhere they could when asked and they could go. In the early days, the roads were sometimes just wagon roads and often they would have to ford small streams as there were no bridges.

This wonderful group sang throughout the piedmont and into the mountains. They loved the small country churches as they thought they could be of service to them. They traveled to the mountain churches at Stuart, Vesta and Buffalo Ridge as well as many others. Beatie told me where some of Bob Childress' churches were after I had read that thrilling book, "The Man Who Moved A Mountain."

They were always going some place to sing at revivals and other religious services. They were willing to help out regardless of denomination or size. Perhaps the reason for their popularity was they had a very unique sound somewhat like the Chuck Wagon Gang. I think this was the reason for their acceptance. A minister told me one time he did not like gospel singing as such, but loved them because they put across the message in song and not themselves. Another lady said, "I never heard them sing, but I could feel the spirit behind their singing." 1990 was their 50th year anniversary of presenting their message in song. It would be interesting to know how many thousands of people had heard them during these fifty years. The number would astonish us, I am sure.

As I have said, they especially like the country hill and mountain churches because the people were so sincere. They carried their church bus and gave it to the Indian Mission at Cherokee. Beatie said, "The Indians have so little and are so thankful, it puts us to shame. I think of and pray for them often."

Singing was not all of Beatie's interest. She put her church first. She was usually one of the first to get there and served in several capacities such as Sunday School teacher, choir leader, secretary and, in general, wherever needed, whether cleaning or seeing to the many small jobs no one seemed to remember were done. In the early days of the church, she even built fires in the coal fired furnace they had then.

Due to her interest and hard work, the church grew from a modest church to a very nice facility. No one promoted a project or worked harder to expand the church than she did. Without her leadership, I doubt the lovely church and parsonage would be what they are today.

Her interest didn't end at the church doors. She went out into the community to help where there was a need. She had so much compassion for the elderly, the sick, the poor or grief stricken. She did not have children of her own, but there were many of Beatie's children.

She loved children and they loved her. There was no generation gap. She believed that Sunday School and Church was just as important as public school to prepare them for life. She loved to plan something she thought they would enjoy - a picnic, a trip to an amusement park or other things she thought would interest them. She cheered them on at their ball games and went to their school programs and graduations. She loved all of them and let them know she cared.

One incident she told me makes me sad even to tell. She said there was a large family of poor people living in the community. They had a death in the family. Someone who went by said there did not seem to be any food in the house. She got busy, fried chicken, made ham biscuits, a cake and lemonade and carried it to the family. She said, "I have never seen more humble appreciation."

When she came home some of the neighbors laughed and said, "I bet they gobbled that up." She said, "That made me mad and I said that's just what I wanted them to do."

Years later a nice young girl came up and hugged Beatie. The girl said, "When we were so hurt and sad you were the only one that seemed to care. I have never forgotten and have always tried to show others I cared." Beatie said this brought tears to her eyes and made it all worth while.

Beatie was always happiest when doing for others. She was an excellent cook and loved to fix meals for her friends. She gave a home to several young folks who needed a place to stay. She loved people and her home was always open to them; few places would you feel as welcome and at home. She always said come back soon when you left and you felt she was sincere in saying it.

There were generations of Beatie's Children, She became a special friend and her home was always open to them. She might not approve of all you did but accepted you and encouraged you to do better. By not preaching or fussing, she accomplished more than most who did.

Beatie's last years were happy and sad. She lost her husband. A new minister came to the church. He needed someone to keep his children before and after school as both he and his wife worked. Beatie took on this task and it was the most beautiful association I ever saw. She loved them and they loved her. Jason and Amy became the last of Beatie's children.

After a long battle with cancer, Beatie passed away. Her last days were filled with pain but she bore it like the Christian soldier she was. On her last birthday the church surprised her with a surprise birthday party and proclaimed it "Beatie Smith Day." She was overjoyed with this honor.

During her illness, I often visited her. We would sit and talk about events and people we had known. After attending the funeral of a friend and telling her how sad the service had been, she remarked, "I don't want any sad songs sung at my funeral." She said, "All of these years I have been working and traveling toward that wonderful home. If I remain faithful and reach that haven of rest, it will be my day of victory. Now what could be sad about that? No, I don't like sad songs," she said.

The minister said he could not preach Beatie's funeral. She had already done that daily by the life she had lived and the example she had set. At the conclusion of a beautiful service for a beautiful person, the choir sang an old favorite of the church, "I Will Meet You Just Inside The Eastern Gate."

We left the church with tear dimmed eyes. Outside we were greeted by other of Beatie's children, some who had come a long way to be at the service. Regardless of time and distance, there would always be a bond between us because of the friendship of this wonderful lady.

We have been left behind to continue life's journey. If we will remain faithful, we too can make it safely through the Eastern Gate. I am sure one of the first persons we see will be Beatie. I am sure there will be those who make the journey safely because of the kindness and encouragement she gave. One thing for certain and sure, "There will be no sad songs sung there."