Yesterday, November 30th, is the birthday of two important people in my life. One of them is my youngest brother, Nathan, who turned 38 – and the other is Weston Noble, who turned 85. I told a couple of choir members a little story about Mr. Noble and the birth of my brother back in 1969, when my mother was Mr. Noble’s secretary. (If I understand correctly, she was the first secretary he ever had. Before that, he pretty much handled all of his own correspondence, if you can believe it.) Anyway, Nathan was born about a month premature and had to be kept in an Isolette (I don’t think I’m spelling that correctly, but that’s what they called it- it was basically an incubator) because he hadn’t breathed on his own right away. SCARY. Anyway, he was soon fine and so was my mom, but that was back in the days when they actually kept new mothers in the hospital for longer than twenty minutes. One day Mr. Noble came to visit my mother, even though back in those days visitation was a much more restricted thing. He walked into the hospital and I guess just kept following the signs towards the maternity ward, breezing through multiple doors that said UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS ARE NOT ALLOWED BEYOND THESE DOORS or STOP! NO VISITORS . . . . walking past them all as though he owned the place. And before long, he was standing at my mother’s bedside, like an angel sent from heaven. But then a couple of orderlies materialized to escort him out. Ah, to have been a fly on the wall for that little moment.
Anyway, I will always remember Mr. Noble’s birthday because it’s the same as Nathan’s – and I remember making a point of celebrating it back in the fall of 1981, when I was president of Nordic. I bought twinkies for everyone for the cake- and for a gift, I bought a second-hand LP of the Perry Como Christmas Album – – – so incredibly appropriate because Mr. Noble would chastise us for excessive and inappropriate scooping in our singing by saying “Uh oh. No Perry Como!” He roared with laughter when he unwrapped that present – which was all I could afford on my college student budget. (If I’d been an even somewhat organized choir president, I would have collected money from everyone. . . but that would have involved “planning ahead,” which is ranked on my list of skills between Speaks Chinese and Throws A Football One Hundred Yards.)
I didn’t know it then but that must have been his 60th birthday, because here we are- 25 years later – celebrating his 85th. He assumed that I had created yesterday’s surprise birthday party, but no – either Jim Ripley or Peter Dennee had been alerted to Mr. Noble’s birthday by someone who I think read about it in the Luther paper, and they also mentioned that at least one person called from Luther to make sure that we were aware of the birthday and were doing something about it. At any rate, they were prepared. What happened is that they summoned him down to the choir at 12:15 what they said was an important meeting regarding the Christmas concert- and I think it honestly never occurred to him that it might be anything other than that. So he walked into the choir room, full of choir members, a couple of faculty, etc. and he just started talking to people like it was any other day. And when Jim called for order, Mr. Noble went and sat down like everyone else, probably wondering what the agenda was. But the agenda consisted of one item – celebrating the birthday of our special guest conductor.
I don’t want to spell out everything that happened or everything that was said – it was too personal an experience for that – but I do want to say that Mr. Noble was truly surprised and profoundly moved. One of the things he said to those who were assembled was that he figured that this was going to be a strange birthday because nobody around here would even know about it and it would very likely go unacknowledged. So this was the most wonderful sort of surprise. And when he was presented a gift from the choir by choir president, Bryan Chung, he wrapped Bryan in probably the longest and strongest bear hug he’s ever been in – so delighted was he by the gift. And he took the occasion to say, in his typically eloquent way, how amazed and grateful he is that at the age of 85 he can be doing what he is doing.
What I’m sure he does not begin to realize is that we are every bit as grateful as he is that he is able to do what he is doing- and that he’s doing what he’s doing right here – with us – at little ol’ Carthage College. I am still pinching myself to make sure that this isn’t all an amazing dream.
pictured: Mr. Noble and the colorful cake from our local Super Value store- boy, they make fantastic frosting! The figure in the background is our department chair, Jim Ripley, another Luther grad. By the way, the picture is less than choice because I broke our real camera several days ago – I made the mistake of setting it down on the arm of a living room chair and the rest is history. Yesterday I was reduced to using a Kodak disposable camera- only to discover upon my return home that Kathy had purchased for us (me) a new camera—- a Kodak Easy Share.