Saturday, September 13, 2003
Volunteers sing new tune
He helps through music, she goes anywhere she's neededBy Ron Simon
OLIVESBURG -- These days, pianist and vocalist Eddie Blue performs in a new venue. He appears by request in nursing homes and senior centers.
Eddie Blue is a volunteer entertainer.
Eddie, whose real name is Beauford Williams, still does his act at weddings and private parties; but he's slacked off to do more volunteer work.
The best reward, he said, can come at a nursing home when a member of the audience who has Alzheimer's disease might suddenly smile during a performance.
"Something in the music reached a memory. Brought something back,'' Williams, 70, who lives on Mansfield-Adario Road, said.
That, he said, is a beautiful moment. "It's rewarding to see a glint of life back in their eyes again.''
Williams and his wife, Janet, 72, a seamstress by early trade, are retired, sort of. The couple, who acted as foster parents for 50 to 60 children over the years, are into new careers as volunteers.
Beauford is on the board of directors of the Retired Service Volunteer Program in Mansfield and on the board of the Greater Mansfield Arts Council. The latter group, he said, is trying to promote arts to those who cannot afford the price of a symphony ticket or black-tie affairs.
For several years he volunteered at the Third Street Clinic and the former Peoples Hospital.
Janet used her seamstress skills to create clothes for children and worked as a volunteer receptionist at an emergency pregnancy aid office.
But she said the years as foster parents -- in addition to raising five children of their own -- took up most of the couple's time.
"I was just a sucker when it came to foster kids,'' Janet said. "I once took in seven at one time from one family just so they wouldn't be separated. Beauford came home one afternoon to find three baby beds in our bedroom.''
"At least we had a home large enough to accommodate more kids," her husband said.
Children in need of foster care are children with problems and some, the Williams' said, were unbelievably severe.
"You can't imagine how badly even a 2-year-old can be damaged,'' Beauford said.
But there was only one runaway, Janet said.
"She didn't get any farther than Crestview High School (less than a mile away). There are no sidewalks and no bus stops out here.''
The key, she said, "is constant attention. These youngsters need to be told they are loved at all times.''
The couple still keeps in touch with some of the youngsters who stayed with them. The longest was in the house for nearly six years.
The couple said emotional ties became so strong that letting go was devastating for both sides. They gave fostering up.
But they continued their volunteer efforts. Besides his free concerts, Beauford worked on a disaster training program for MedCentral/Mansfield Hospital.
Janet said, "I'm on standby. Kathy (Cutlip of RSVP) calls me when she can't get anybody else. Otherwise, I'm a baby sitter.''
The couple has eight granddaughters, two grandsons and a great-grandson, with another grandchild due in November.
The couple is also active at the Baha'i Center in Mansfield.
Beauford is from Fort Wayne, Ind. Janet is from Kentucky.
They met at Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond, Ind. With time out for Beauford to serve in the Army during the Korean War, the couple has been married for 51 years.
Always the entertainer, Beauford worked successfully for 10 years in Lansing, Mich. The couple moved to the Mansfield area in 1970 because Janet's late sister, Josephine O'Dell, owned a sewing shop in Mansfield. So while she worked as a seamstress, he did the Eddie Blue thing.
"I was sometimes booked three years in advance,'' he said.
©Copyright 2003, Mansfield News Journal (OH, USA)
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