Hoosier, 82, sings with Mormon choir
Yet when the leaders of the internationally heralded choir heard the dream and the story of Virginia Spelbring, they immediately asked the grandmother of four to sing with their 360-member group -- which she did Thursday night in Salt Lake City.
"It was absolutely everything I hoped it would be, and more," said Spelbring, 82. "They had three TV stations and the newspaper there. They almost made a star out of me."
"For the choir to extend that offer is very unusual," says Michael Von Rosen, its spokesman. "We did it because it's such a great story."
The story began in December, when Spelbring arrived late for Sunday services at Zion United Church of Christ near her home in the rural southwestern Indiana community of Poland.
Slipping into the pew in front of her friend Sharon Kinder, Spelbring turned and told Kinder that she had been singing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the radio of her van. She also told Kinder that it had been her lifelong dream to sing with that choir.
"I told her that her voice would blend right in with theirs," said Kinder. "She dismissed the idea as absurd."
Kinder didn't. She remembered reading about an Indianapolis-based group called Never Too Late, which works to make the dreams of senior citizens come true.
Kinder contacted Bob Haverstick, the head of Never Too Late, and explained Spelbring's dream. Haverstick phoned the choir's offices in Utah.
"I loved the idea," Von Rosen says. "I sent it over to Craig Jessop, the music director of the choir, and he responded with three words: 'Let's do it.'
"She went from singing in the car to being in the loft with them."
Jessop raved about Spelbring after she sang two hours at Thursday's practice session. "Virginia is an absolute inspiration," he said.
Spelbring had a similar reaction to singing with "America's Choir," as former President Ronald Reagan called it.
"They're warm, kind people who like to sing," she says.
Spelbring loves to sing, too. At age 12, she sang at funerals and weddings at her church.
She sang while raising her four children on the 180-acre farm that she worked with Harold, her husband of "46 years and four days."
She also relied on music when she cared for Harold at home during the eight years that Alzheimer's claimed his mind before his death in 1988.
Often, she was listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
"I can't imagine living without music in my life," she says.
Call Star reporter John Shaughnessy at (317) 444-6175.