In 1928 a little boy was born in the family homestead on 6 Chestnut St. in Batavia.
LaVerne C. Cooley Jr. graduated from Batavia High School and furthered his education at Fredonia School of Music. He worked most of his career as an organist for St. Paul Lutheran Church on Washington Avenue for 42 years.
One of his favorite hobbies was his love for small-scale trains.
These are some of LaVerne's obituary facts. He died Feb. 5 at age 92.
What was not mentioned was the character of this man.
He was his church's musical heart as the children's choir director, senior choir director, and organist. He would always buy the members of his choir gifts for their participation and hosted catered parties. He loved every aspect of music and was quite an accomplished musician.
The people I interviewed, Lynn Eick, and Ron and Diane Burroughs, described him as the most loving, kind, talented man who was in turn loved and respected by his congregation.
He was giving, too. Over the years, he generously donated to many charities.
I didn't know LaVerne from St. Paul's; I knew LaVerne as our neighbor. He wasn't just our neighbor on Chestnut Street. He was everyone's neighbor on the Southside of Batavia.
You see, LaVerne had a big heart and took care of the neighborhood -- and he did this every day, weather permitting.
He would always stop at our home, offer some kind words, and wish us a good day. He would share memories of my grandparents when they lived near him. I treasured his words.
The retired organist never retired from keeping the Southside tidy. As years progressed, he might have walked a little slower, but his drive and benevolence kept him going.
He never liked to wear a belt, and as he got older and thinner, we were always a little worried he might lose his pants, but he hung on to them with one hand and picked up trash with the other.
While patrolling, he had an eagle eye for rubbish, no matter how small -- a cigarette butt, a scrap of paper, a bit of plastic. His keen attention to this humble detail added to our quality of life.
He leaves a legacy as a beloved member of his church and a guardian angel of the streets. He touched so many lives; I am sure there are more memories about this diminutive giant, so please share them to honor his kindness and generosity.
Rest in peace, our friend, LaVerne.
"It is not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts." -- Mother Teresa
Photos courtesy of Ron and Diane Burroughs.