ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – After 68 years apart, Cliff Porter again heard the swelling notes of the organ his mother played in his youth. Those familiar, resonant melodies struck a chord during a special visit to McMurry University Monday.
“It just opened up a flood of memories,” Porter says, tears springing to his eyes.
Porter, a resident of Seymour, traveled to McMurry with several family friends to visit the pipe organ now housed in the university’s fine arts building.
Porter’s mother, Pauline Smith-Porter, played the organ in the 1940s and 1950s at the First United Methodist Church in Seymour. According to a family friend, in the early 1950s, the church switched to an electric organ – donating the behemoth instrument to McMurry.
The last time Porter recalls hearing his mother play the organ was 1953.
“In all the time that she lived, she lived for music,” said Porter.
Porter says he reached out to a fellow Seymour resident to do some digging on the organ, learning it was only an hour’s drive away from Seymour at McMurry. The man, teary-eyed, graciously thanked the university and his friend for making the reunion possible.
“It’s just been a wonderful day for me, and I thank God for it,” said Porter.
When asked about the best memory he had of the organ, Porter’s first thought was a more bittersweet recollection. He recalls June 6, 1944, the day troops stormed the beaches of Normandy – his father and uncle among those risking their lives.
“They encouraged everyone in town to go and pray, so I did,” said Porter.
Porter, then a boy, went to the church, with his mother taking up her post on the organ bench. She played the whole day, her son says, in hopes her notes would reach her loved ones and other soldiers overseas.
“My mother stayed up there, I think the whole 24 hours from 12 to 12,” said Porter.
Cliff’s father and uncle would return home from the war, but hearing the same pipes that once played in their honor so many years ago was a touching moment for Porter.
“This is a bucket list thing for me to come and hear the sound of that organ again,” said Porter, his voice wavering with joyful tears.