A Great Tenor - Mr. Oscar Jackson

EVERYBODY SEEMED TO LOVE Mr. Oscar. Oscar, as almost everyone called him, was a remarkable man and the possessor of a remarkable talent. Few people who heard his magnificent tenor voice in action whether he was singing the Episcopal church hymns he loved so well, the tenor notes in a quartet, or the touching strains of “Deep River” would deny this. His was an extraordinary talent which he used freely to sing God’s praise and to give other people joy.
I have often wished that he might have had the opportunity to become a concert singer or have been trained for operatic productions. But even though he was unable to do either of these things, he performed well the role in which God seemed to have placed him for his musical destiny. This was the choir of his beloved St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church where he was the leading tenor and chorister for many years. Mr. Oscar lived in Brooklyn, but on Sundays, during the week, or whenever his services were needed at the church, he walked across the miles to get there and to give one of his beautiful performances.
This man’s religion was deep and constant, and he had an overflowing love for any activity that concerned his church. His activities were numerous. For years, he was a dedicated lay reader and an active, zealous senior warden who constantly gave his best and exhorted others to give their best to any efforts for the advancement of God’s kingdom. Faithfulness to the Sunday school and choir activities was almost a passion with him. Whenever choir practice was held be it near or far, he was sure to be there to sing tenor. And not only his tenor part. If the soprano were weak, one would hear his great voice switch over to help the women singers with a high note that was causing difficulty. He had the power to inspire everyone in the choir, and if Mr. Oscar didn’t appear in his usual place, things just didn’t seem to go right that night. His jolly laugh and funny sayings did much to patch up differences, smooth over rough places and bind the group together.
Mr. Oscar was a robust, handsome brown man with massive girth and chest that reminded one of Enrico Caruso,. If he had been given the opportunity for proper training, no doubt he might have become a shining star in the most demanding musical productions. His voice had tremendous volume, unusual range and the clear lyrical timbre of a tenor. Above all, he loved to sing. In his voice was an indefinable quality that haunted you and made you hope that when he finished singing a song, he would sing just one more. He has been gone several years now, but those of us who knew and loved him, still wish that we could hear him sing just one more song.
Mr. Oscar was a good family man. The wonderful compatibility and sweetness of spirit that existed between Oscar and Min, his wife, was acknowledged by their acquaintances in the city and in the community.
Perhaps there were moments when they differed in opinions, which occurs in all families, but usually, there was mutual understanding and an abiding sincere love and confidence that made the two people as one. The successful and delightful manner in which they adjusted their different church affiliations was a marvel.
Miss Min was an ardent Baptist who might have been termed a pillar in her church. She attended regularly as long as she could and gave freely of her talents and services to the church as well as to the community. I remember her telling of an old lady who lived behind her in Springs Alley who had no relatives and no one to help her. Each day, she dutifully prepared the lady’s meals and took them to her or saw that someone else got them to her. Mr. Oscar was equally as ardent in the service rendered to his church, but each seemed to accept and honor the wishes of the other in their different religious denominations.
They were both very humorous by nature, and they would joke and tease each other about which one was right. But when either denomination needed the other’s help, it was dutifully and cheerfully given.
For years Mr. Oscar worked uptown at Wachovia Bank as janitor and bank messenger. He was a man of great personal charm, had much ability and was the possessor of a rare voice. He pursued his janitorial and messenger duties with as much precision and thoroughness as if he had been a bank director. To say that he enjoyed the confidence of the bank’s management is an understatement. He seemed to have been completely trusted and loved by his employers, and is said to have assisted on occasion with much work that was an important part of bank procedure. In recognition of his exemplary character and his long, efficient service, the directors of Wachovia Bank bestowed upon him the honor of breaking ground for the erection of their new main building.
Mr. Oscar loved the bank and its people. He worked there as long as he could, and when the time came for his retirement, he could hardly accept it. With great physical struggle, he tried to continue going to the bank to perform certain duties until he was almost forced to stay at home. He finally realized that he had to leave the bank and remain at home. Mr. Oscar is sadly missed by all who knew him, but I like to think that he is still joyfully lifting his beautiful tenor voice somewhere in the great unseen choir.

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