Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 24, 2009

Last January I wrote two posts featuring Walter Lee Noblin, a church member in South Carolina in the late 19th/early 20th century – first we read a letter featuring his testimony, then I used his life as a model to illustrate how we can find information about people to turn them from anonymous names on the page to brothers and sisters we care about.

That all just got a little more real, with this photograph of the gravestone of Walter Lee Noblin and his second wife, Stella Blanch Dial:


and the stone of Omar Reed Noblin, who died in childhood, a son of Walter Lee Noblin and his first wife, Maggie E. Duckett:



Steve Noblin, a man I’ve just met via email, drives by the Zion Hill Baptist Church cemetery on the east side of Spartanburg, South Carolina, on his way to work. Although he knows of no connection between his family and Walter’s, the shared surname caught his eye. For some reason he googled Walter’s name, which brought him to those January posts here on Keepa, and he kindly offered to send a photograph.

Steve also told this story which he has given me permission to share:

I was in Salt Lake City the week of September 11, 2001 to attend a national convention of insurance and financial advisors. We were scheduled for a private concert by the Tabernacle Choir on the night of September 11. The concert was obviously cancelled, but the folks in charge called us back, saying that they felt that they needed to open the Tabernacle for a service for church members, and we were still invited. I remember wondering how, at a time when the church needed to minister to its own; could that kindness be extended to a group of strangers? We all went that night, and stood for about two hours in the Tabernacle, listening to that wonderful choir, sing about our nation, our God, and what we all mean to each other as children of our father. I remember weeping openly with other people around me, for all those families who lost mothers, fathers, sons and daughters that day. I have never felt the love of God in a more real way, than on that night, in your church. That’s my memory of 9/11, a blessing of kindness and God’s love from strangers.

Thanks, Steve.

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,
but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”
Ephesians 2:19



  1. Ardis,

    I can’t get over what a world of good Keepa and you promote. We love you. Keepa-up-the-good work!

    Comment by Tracy — November 24, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  2. Beautiful.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — November 24, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  3. Wow — what a wonderful note from Steve Noblin! I loved that. I remember reading about the particular Tabernacle performance that day. It’s cool to hear from someone who was there. And what a meaningful sentiment he expresses in regard to our faith and Temple Square.

    Anyhow, it’s fantastic to see the photos. It’s great to get a little of “the rest of the story.” Thanks.

    Comment by Hunter — November 24, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  4. I’ve added a link in the OP to the Church News account of the 9/11 service; link repeated here.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 24, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  5. Another great Keepa story.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — November 24, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

  6. Arleigh referred me to this story. Very wonderful. Thanks for the virtual community you have created.

    Comment by Joe Heagany — November 24, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  7. I’m impressed that Steve Noblin not only found your Keepa blogs, but that he contacted you and sent you the photographs of the gravestones. This is a wonderful postscript to your blogs.

    Comment by Maurine — November 24, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

  8. Wonderful.

    Comment by m&m — November 24, 2009 @ 11:07 pm

  9. Great stuff, Ardis!

    Comment by Mark B. — November 25, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  10. With the Internet, search engines, and email, the 6 degrees of separation got reduced to 3.

    Comment by Bookslinger — November 25, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

  11. Thanks for sharing this, Ardis and Steve. Remarkable!

    Comment by Ziff — November 25, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

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