My 2nd great aunt, Sarah Bernice Anderson passed away in 1911 at the age of 20. She was born and lived her whole life in Franklin, Warren County, Ohio and is buried there in Woodhill Cemetery. Her parents, Howard Balentine Anderson and Hattie Bates Cather were my 2nd great grandparents.
Bernice must have been a most beloved member of her community. In the family archives I have a booklet given to the family by a friend who transcribed and typed the funeral service and decorated the pages with beautiful hand-drawn flowers. I wanted to scan some of the pages for this post but unfortunately it will not lay flat.
Inside the booklet I found a newspaper clipping of Bernice’s obituary dated 12 October 1911. It is probably the longest and most eloquent obituary I have ever seen for one of my ancestors. The name of the paper is not given, but the clipping is almost certainly from the Franklin Chronicle.
YOUNG LIFE CLOSED.
Bernice Anderson Called in the Bloom of Youth.
After a month of heroic struggle during which all that skill and tender love could do to save her life, Bernice Anderson passed across the border into the land of silence and peace. Early on the morning of October 6th, even while the midnight stroke of the clock echoed in the stricken home the call came and placing her hand in that of the heavenly messenger she left us to return no more. Her death is the first break in her immediate family and also in that of her mother’s. She leaves her father and mother, two sisters and one brother, numerous relatives and a host of friends to mourn her loss.
The funeral was conducted from the home on the West Side last Sunday afternoon at 3 o’clock. The services were in charge of her friend and pastor, Rev. Elmer Douglass. In a beautiful tribute to the young life Mr. Douglass closed his remarks with the following words:
“Just four weeks before her death she went to church for choir practice in preparation for the services of four weeks ago today. She returned home from that practice and was put to bed, never to rise again. Today the organ has been silent for the hands that played are still, but up yonder, on a instrument not made with hands, the organist is playing and the music is not the imperfect music of earth but the perfect music of the heavenly hosts. Just before she passed away it was noticed that she was humming a hymn, but earthly ears were too dull to catch the theme. Was it the echo of a heavenly hymn? And had her spirit already caught the song of angels? So today, her first Sabbath in Heaven, she is singing the songs of Moses and the Lamb, and her spirit is helping angelic choirs to swell the songs of praise, in that City of Gold.”
Sarah Bernice Anderson was born September 20, 1891, and died October 6, 1911, aged 20 years. She united with the Presbyterian church on New Year’s day 1905, where she had always been a faithful and earnest member. The last earthly duty she performed, the last errand over in town was for her beloved church. She graduated from Franklin High School in May 1910.
Bernice was one of our best friends in this community where friends abound. We shall miss her bright smile and cheerful presence for she spread sunshine wherever she went. It seems hard to realize that she is gone and that we shall never again hear her pleasant voice in cheerful greeting. We cannot mourn for her, because as we journey down life’s rugged path, we come to realize that there is much sorrow and suffering along the way and those who die in early life miss many pains and burdens which come with increasing years. But our deep sympathy goes out to the broken family circle. It is those who are left that feel keenly the loneliness and heart hunger for the “touch of a vanished hand or the sound of a voice that is still.” Bernice has gone in the full realization of the best days of life and has been spared the dull and dreary days that were to follow.
Last Christmas Bernice accepted service in one of our stores during the holiday rush. One day a little girl came up to the counter and was fascinated by a doll. She sought to possess the treasure but on counting her pennies found she did not have enough to purchase the doll. Bernice was waiting upon the disappointed child and several others and in the hurry the little girl went away unnoticed. The disappointment of the child lay heavy upon the heart of Bernice and after much inquiry she found out who she was and where she lived. On Christmas morning the figure of a young woman carrying a parcel might have been seen going toward a home on the hill. It was Bernice and she carried to the child the coveted doll, a gift from herself to the girl she did not even know. That act was typical of Bernice Anderson. Liberal, generous, kind-hearted, she was always willing and anxious to do something for others.
The following poem on the death of Bernice Anderson was written by Rev. E. H. Douglass, and we consider it so sympathetic and so well done that we have secured his consent to publish it.
The organ is closed and silent
No music from it today,
For the hands that played are absent,
The organist has gone away.
As she lay in her last short illness,
And her mother sat by her bed,
She lifted her hand from her mother’s
“Let me go, I must play,” she said.
Then hummed a hymn so softly
Our ears could not understand.
It was the song of angels
The theme of the Better Land.
It was call of the Father,
“Well done, my child,” He said,
“They must learn to sing without you,
Those singers you have led.
For I want you here in My chorus,
In the song you have known of old;
And in place of the organ, I’ll give you
A beautiful harp of gold.”
Then she lifted her hands toward Heaven
And saying “goodbye,” she was gone,
And we’ll hear her no more we loved ones,
Till we hear that angelic song.
But as we sit in our sadness,
And our eyes are filled with tears,
In a whisper as softe as the breezes
A song comes to our ears.
‘Tis the song of our loved one playing,
The song of a Saviour’s love;
A message for us to meet her
Some day in the City above.
So while the organ is silent
No loved one here to play,
Let us tune our hearts to the music
And catch the Heavenly Lay.
For our hearts will be made lighter
By hearing the music Above,
And knowing some day we shall join her
With Him, in that City of Love.