Some grandmothers cross-stitch or quilt beautiful gifts for their grandchildren as lasting reminders of their love. Not Paula Larsen. The 75-year-old great-grandmother recorded a gospel album to give her family a special gift of love.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I popped in the CD. I certainly didn’t anticipate hearing the powerful, husky, beautiful voice that filled the air singing favorites like “How Great Thou Art,” “In the Garden” and “Because He Lives.”
Paula, who is from Fargo, says she walked away from music for 25 years, but found her way back to it through the kindness of others. Here is her story.
“When I was a public radio development director on the (North Dakota State University) campus, I had the privilege of working with the late Dr. James F. Condell, jazz historian and guitarist. When I shyly mentioned to him that I sang, he said, ‘Well, if you sing, why aren’t you singing?’ I had no answer, and that stuck in my mind for a long time.
“As a young girl in Des Moines, Iowa, I sang in Sunday school. In seventh grade, a school teacher formed a singing group with six of us girls. Every year as we moved up through the grades, we asked each new music teacher to work with us. We sang at school as well as for events throughout the community through our senior year. I soloed with the Swing Band in my senior year, also. The sextet gathered from across the nation to sing at our 55th high school reunion a few years back — except for one, who had passed away from Alzheimer’s.
“After college, I didn’t do much with music while I was a classroom teacher for four years, pursued a career in sales and systems engineering with IBM for 21 years and raised a family. In my 50s, I joined my church choir and eventually formed The Doves of Peace, a ladies quartet, that has led monthly singalongs for the residents at Bethany Retirement Living in Fargo for the past 15 years and have sung harmony at many venues throughout the Red River Valley.
“Pianist Diane Townsend, the late guitarist Jeff Mooridian and other Fargo jazz musicians accompanied me on my first album of American popular standards in 2014. It was with Diane’s encouragement that I embarked on that album, which was a lifelong dream. She became my vocal coach for this gospel album of songs I have been singing in my music ministry for the past three years with Fargo’s Jail Chaplain program.
“I hope the music on the CD will draw listeners closer to God.”
Paula has used the encouragement of others to create her own brand of kindness, and it is contagious.
If you would like to buy Paula’s CD, “Testimony,” contact Peace Lutheran Church in Fargo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com.