Marcheta Hamlin, who was always Mrs. Hamlin to me, was one of the classiest people I’ve ever known. I don’t mean she was fancy, or put on airs; quite the opposite. She was proud, but not arrogant; dignified and gracious.
When I say she was like family, this wasn’t just a saying. Her parents, Rev. Alphonso Whitfield (d. 1999) and Constance (Walker) Whitfield (d. 2000), were my godparents. Her “nephson,” her sister Pat Jones’ son Walter (“Butch”), who lived right next door to the Hamlins, and from whom I inherited TWO jobs, was MY parents’ godson, and probably the closest thing I ever had to a brother.
Mrs. Hamlin was the organist at the church in which I grew up, Trinity A.M.E. Zion in Binghamton, NY, for decades. When I was 11 or 12, I took piano lessons from her for a little over a year. I just wasn’t very good at it, though I did practice. No regrets, since it was useful for singing.
One day, I was laboriously trying to play the Minuet in G major, then attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, which, incidentally, I had danced to in second grade; it’s now credited to Christian Petzold. Mrs. Hamlin said, “It’s like A Lover’s Concerto by the Toys.” I had no idea what she was talking about, though, of course, now I do. But it was clear that she, who was my parents’ age, was cooler than I, at least at that moment.
Her daughters Connie and Lauren went to the same grade school and junior high my sisters and I did, Daniel S. Dickinson, which was but a block away from their home. We comprised approximately 40% of all the black kids going to school there at the time. Lauren sang at church with my sister Leslie and me in the MAZET Singers at church, which was only a couple blocks away from home for all of us.
Too infrequently, I went to visit Mrs. Hamlin in her later years. My wife got to meet her equally dignified husband, Garland, who died in 2003, and who figures prominently in this 1972 story I wrote a few years ago. I visited her a couple of times after his passing, at least once with my late mother c. 2007, and Mrs. Hamlin was, as always, a charming hostess.
The top picture is her c. 1942, holding her little cousin, John Hightower. The middle picture is of Garland and Marcheta’s wedding in 1949. Also pictured, her sister Pat (d. 1978) and Pat’s then-husband Walter L. Jones, who I barely remember.
Here is Mrs. Hamlin’s obituary. Today is her funeral, after 90 wonderful years, and she will be in my heart.