What a story! On New Year’s Eve 2018, our former president, Tommie Reece, was fielding the Pastoral Care telephone line. She answered a call from an 88-year-old gentleman who lived in the Chicago area, inquiring whether our Fellowship would be interested in accepting a gift of his personal piano.
Turns out that the caller, Rembert Stokes, is a Greenville native who went to Greenville High School and then studied engineering at Clemson College. He is a very loyal Clemson alum, and when he has been down for his reunions he has occasionally attended our Fellowship, unbeknownst to many of us. And it turns out that the piano is a Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand piano, made in Vienna in 1988, which is one of the largest and finest pianos made in the world. It is 290cm (9ft 6in) in length and has nine more keys in the bass than regular pianos (which are black so that pianists who are used to 88 keys don’t get confused).
After graduating from Clemson in 1953, Mr. Stokes was hired by Bell Telephone Laboratories in Summit, New Jersey, which is where he found the Unitarian Universalist Church, after a journey from Baptist roots. He worked for Bell Labs for 25 years and then worked for Motorola until his retirement in 1994, garnering 22 patents in telephony and mobile telephony (and invented the laminated coinage used by the U. S. Treasury since 1964). In the course of his career, he was transferred to various parts of the country and got involved in development of UU churches at every turn. He has written three books: Systematic Approach to Problem Solving, Cultivating Generosity: Giving What’s Right, Not What’s Left, and From God to DNA.
Mr. Stokes has been a fine amateur pianist all of his life. He purchased the Bösendorfer after it had been in a Chicago concert hall for four years, and he and his late wife Lee had it in their home until they moved into a retirement community. He wanted to find a good home for the piano, and we are the lucky recipients!