Faye Rowe was ‘much better than gold’

Published 7:36 pm Friday, June 8, 2018

Had she lived these past 20 years, Faye Rowe would have occupied half-a-book of columns, I’m sure. 

The first time we wrote of her in the LDN was on Nov. 3, 1997. That was a couple of days after she died unexpectedly in surgery from an aneurysm. We had only begun our column here in August of that year, so this was all very new. Somehow, I knew when we lost her we lost our biggest “fan” — which was ironic, because I was her fan, too, in a number of ways.

Part of her fame was as a great singer with those “Gospel Lampliters” in the 60s. Then she sang the alto for the “Heralds” after that, a group consisting of fellow Murphy Avenue church members Larry Thompson, Alice Ann Prince, along with smooth tenor Tim Prince from Napolean, Alabama. Three of the group were cousins, with Larry the only holdout, so he decided he might as well marry into the group. So, he married Alice Ann, who was a blessing to him for many years until she took her heavenly journey a few years ago. But just about everybody in LaGrange knows he dated Faye first, and we know he wouldn’t have gone wrong if that had worked it, either.

Our fan-hood of Faye developed due to more than her being a well-known alto singer. She had the distinct privilege — or misfortune, perhaps — of being my next-door neighbor for the first 17 years of my life. In fact, we shared the same Juniper Street driveway. We watched her pull out of her driveway heading to work about every day, and we saw her come home, always with a sweet smile and a gentle spirit. She was from a generation above mine, but everyone in our younger generation knew that when you started talking about LaGrange’s beautiful people — inside and out — you had to put Faye Rowe on the front row of that conversation. Amazingly, despite her inner and outer beauty, no gentleman ever swept her off her feet and led her to the altar. The boys of her generation must have had some serious eye trouble to have missed out on her.

I wasn’t the only one who thought that way, either. Coca-Cola Mike did, too. Despite being from another “generation,” Faye had that special quality to connect to people, even with a couple of youngsters such as Coca-Cola and me. I remember this because, somewhere along the way, Coca-Cola Mike got to calling Faye “Flip.” She didn’t seem to mind, so we kept doing it as long as she lived — with utmost respect, of course. But looking back, I now realize that she knew that when we called her “Flip” that we thought she was all right. More importantly, her allowing two wet-behind-the-ears fellas to do that meant she thought we were a little-bit all right, too.

Something strikes me about Faye, even now. We all know that church, certainly, is about dressing up and preaching long sermons and having gospel meetings and pot-luck dinners and visiting the sick. And it is about all of those things, and more. But it’s also about being real people. People you can talk to. People you can laugh with. People who think you’re okay, even though you have flaws you can see a mile off. When you’re around true Christians, you never have to put on airs or anything like that.

There weren’t any airs about Faye Rowe that made her extra-special.

She never had a chance to see Coca-Cola Mike and me grow all the way up and raise our kids — and, now, grandkids. But I think the Lord used her to be a spiritual cheerleader for us for the first 30 plus years of our lives. She certainly was one of our great “balcony people.” 

I still remember Faye’s pulling me aside not too many years before she left us to tell me how proud she was of our work and what we had become.

In a way, Faye not only sang gospel music, she lived it. There’s a difference. That thought makes me think of one particular song that the Heralds and she sang, called “Better Than Gold.”

 The song says, “Some seem to think that the wealth of this world is all that will matter…” 

You can almost fill in the rest of the words from there, all the way to its resounding refrain: “Some things are much better than gold.”

That song fit Faye, to a tee. She didn’t give two cents about material possessions. She knew there were plenty of things better than gold, and she grasped about every one of those things her whole life. Instead of gold in her hands she had rare and special gold in her heart. In 1997, in this same LDN spot, we wrote of her: “She was a wonderful, Christian lady, one of the best I’ve ever known. I’ve always felt that way, not just now.”

True then, true now.

We know that heaven’s not the same now with Faye’s blessed arrival, but neither is our sweet little Georgia hometown. Our two houses still sit side by side, but they’re missing some great spirits, some souls and hearts of gold. I think sometimes of taking that blessed step into heaven’s glory. I know Coca-Cola Mike does, too. And when we’re there, the two of us sure want to get together and look around for that lovely, gentle, and funny next-door neighbor, our friend and loved one we affectionately called “Flip.”

Oh, I expect she’ll be singing there somewhere with that great angelic host. But that’s a big chorus, so finding her might not be easy. We’ll have to pause and listen very carefully, but there’s little doubt we’ll find her. Hers will be the smoothest, richest alto voice in all of heaven’s choir.