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A wish fulfilled to sing with choir

‘I can’t believe it’s happening to me,’ says music-loving octagenarian

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At age 82, Virginia Spelbring, who lives alone on a farm near Poland, Ind., has achieved what most people never do in a lifetime: the fulfillment of a grand but improbable fantasy.

A longtime fan of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Mrs. Spelbring is a member of her local Zion United Church of Christ, where she participates in any activity and service she can. With a passion for choral music, she has sung in many choirs over the years, and had entertained a fantasy of singing with the world-famous group whose broadcast emanates from Salt Lake City each week.

Her wish was fulfilled Jan. 13, when, by invitation, she sat in with the choir for its Thursday night rehearsal.

After warming up the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, musical director Craig Jessop presented and introduced her as a special guest and then related the events that led to her being there.

He said that in December, Michael Von Rosen of Church Public Affairs received a request from the Never Too Late Foundation based in Indiana. "It's an organization that strives to honor the wishes of elderly citizens," Brother Jessop explained, adding that its representative, Bob Haverstick, was hoping to help Mrs. Spelbring fulfill her longtime dream.

"It was at her church services that Sharon Kinder, a fellow member of the congregation, learned of Mrs. Spelbring's dream. After having arrived late for services one Sunday, Mrs. Spelbring turned to Ms. Kinder to say she was late because she needed to finish listening to the radio broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word."

After the choir's delighted laughter and applause subsided, Brother Jessop went on to recount that Mrs. Spelbring had even persuaded her late husband to travel to Salt Lake City with her for their 40th anniversary just to hear the choir sing.

Ms. Kinder contacted the foundation to nominate her friend for the Never Too Late program, Brother Jessop said. "After receiving the request from Mr. Haverstick, Michael Von Rosen contacted me and gave me the whole story, and I said, 'Let's do it!' "

Presenting her with a book published last year on the occasion of the choir's 75th anniversary of broadcasting "Music and the Spoken Word," Brother Jessop remarked, "I think you've been listening to us for all 75 years!"

Speaking briefly to the choir, she said: "I can never thank you enough for giving me this opportunity. I can't believe it's happening to me. And when I go back home, they're going to say, 'What on earth? Who does she think she is?' I'll bet they don't say it to my face, but they will say it.

"I do thank you so much. It's been such a privilege to be here, and I'll always remember it."

Before returning home to Indiana, Mrs. Spelbring, who was accompanied by her son and daughter-in-law, Mark and Linda Spelbring, and her daughter Melita Hillman, attended the Sunday broadcast, where she was a special guest of the choir.

E-mail to: rscott@desnews.com