Couple treasures 50 years at Rose Hill Baptist Church

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Eunice Northington knew little about Natchez when she moved to town to teach school in 1952. But she knew quickly that Rose Hill Baptist Church was the place where she wanted to worship. She has done so for 54 years.

Further, when she met her future husband, Hiawatha Northington in 1954, she asked him to come along to church with her. &8220;I found what I wanted at Rose Hill,&8221; he said, smiling at his wife.

The Northingtons, both educators in the Natchez public schools for many years, are retired from teaching but continue to stay active in church, where he is a deacon and, in fact, the oldest deacon; and she is a member of the choir, often singing solos.

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&8220;I came to Natchez as a youngster, just finding my way,&8221; he said. &8220;I thought church was the right thing to do.&8221;

Rose Hill is a place where he is uplifted, he said. And he gives to the church in more than one way. One is just by the way he conducts himself, he said.

&8220;I think it&8217;s important for people to be humble, not pretentious,&8221; he said. &8220;And when they ask me, I participate.&8221;

For Eunice Northington, the choir is a joy. &8220;I&8217;ve served as president for umpteen years,&8221; she said. &8220;I&8217;ve been around music all my life. My mother played church organ, and my sister is musical.&8221;

When her sister visits, they often perform together, sister at the piano and Eunice singing the solo.

&8220;I like hymns and secular sacred music, and I like some sacred classical music,&8221; she said. &8220;I don&8217;t have a gospel-singing voice. And I&8217;m too old for hip-hop.&8221;

Hiawatha Northington is one of his wife&8217;s biggest fans. &8220;She is a beautiful, blessed woman with a beautiful voice,&8221; he said.

Retirement has been a delight for both, they agreed. They are busy keeping house and yard neat and groomed and doing what they please, they said.

&8220;It&8217;s not my, it&8217;s our,&8221; she said. &8220;We&8217;ve been like that since we were first married.&8221;

Hiawatha Northington spent his career teaching high school math. Opportunities to move into administrative positions didn&8217;t interest him.

At the beginning of his teaching career, he was frustrated, he said. &8220;The children didn&8217;t understand the language of algebra,&8221; he said.

He talked to his classes about the problem and asked them if they were trying and if they cared.

&8220;Finally, one child said, &8216;Mr. Northington, we care. But we&8217;ve never had anyone like you to teach us.&8217;&8221;

He persisted and was rewarded as students began to tell him they understood. &8220;That was like going to heaven,&8221; he said.

Thirteen Star students chose him as their Star teacher. He was inducted into the Star Hall of Fame. His best reward, he said, was that his students appreciated his classes.

&8220;To think a child would choose me &8212; that was such an honor; that was motivating,&8221; he said.

Eunice Northington remembers how few materials she had for class work. She taught elementary school, moving among grades three to six, fifth being her favorite.

&8220;First, in elementary school, you have to know the children&8217;s parents and their home background,&8221; she said.

She tried to teach students things that were relevant to their everyday life. &8220;Suppose one of them needs to know how to make an introduction? I think it&8217;s important for them to learn things like that in school.&8221;

At the recent Sadie V. Thompson Era Reunion, many of those who came were former students. In fact, together, the two former teachers could not estimate the number of lives they have touched.

On Oct. 6, the Northingtons will celebrate 50 years of marriage. They expect their children will be around for that &8212; LaDonna Kay, 49, a pediatric nurse with a Ph.D.; Monica Lynne, 44, a pediatrician; and Hiawatha II, 35, a lawyer, all in the Jackson area.