St. Francis Episcopal Church in Rutherfordton, NC

The Life Journey of Roscoe Conn Sr.

Roscoe Conn Sr.Born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia, with five brothers and four sisters.  He was raised by his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.  His mother and father divorced when he was 3 to 4 years old and his father moved to New York.  His mother remarried after he had graduated from high school and had moved to New York to live with his father.

His mother’s family were Baptists, but his father’s family were Episcopalians and they made sure that Roscoe and his brothers and sisters attended the Episcopal Church even after his father was gone.  Roscoe stopped going to church after he moved to New York, until after he met and married Josephine.

One of the more significant people in Roscoe’s childhood was his chorus teacher (who was also his mother’s cousin).  She was a Baptist and took him to church picnics and other places.  She made sure that he stayed in chorus.  Roscoe recalls the year in which he tried to join the band instead of the chorus.  When he did not show up in chorus she went looking for him and found him in the band.  She pulled him out of the band and told the band director that Roscoe was going to be in the chorus and not the band.  In remembering her he says, “She was a sweet person, someone you just always wanted to be around.”  Her persistence paid off, as he was selected for the All-State High School Choir when he was 15 or 16.

Roscoe and his brothers and sisters were very active in their church when he was growing up, being acolytes and lay readers.  His mother also took him to Baptist youth activities.

After Roscoe graduated from high school he moved to New York to live with his father and attend barber school.  For the next several years his life

was mostly tied up in working with this father, brother and uncle in the barber shop.  Although he worked 6 days a week from 7 am to 10 to 11 pm most days, his father found time to be a mason and to sponsor Roscoe in joining the Masonic lodge in New York, and also time to care for his father’s hunting dogs.  He also found time for a bit of courtship, as he met Josephine while working in the barber shop and married her.

After he and Josephine started raising a family, they decided they needed to find a church to take the kids to.  They went first to an Episcopal Church, however, it was not very welcoming to new families and did not like children coming to the main service at all.  So they left there and after shopping around a bit settled on a Lutheran Church.

Roscoe credits his faith in helping him through a couple of traumas in his early life.  His brother was refinishing floors in an apartment building and the polyurethane was ignited by a gas refrigerator and blew him out a seven-story window.  He died shortly thereafter in the hospital.  Roscoe also tells about his sister being raped and killed, with her body being left out on a highway.  This was an especially hard time as this was done by a preacher who apparently had done similar acts a number of times before.

In 1969, Roscoe and Josephine decided that they wanted to get their children away from the influence of drugs and such things in New York and decided they like North Carolina, where Josephine was from, better than Virginia.  They moved to Rutherfordton in 1969 to raise their four children.  Roscoe says that he has spent all his time working and raising his kids and so has not had a lot of time for hobbies or other activities in his life (although he does have an interesting collection of ball caps and a small collection of model cars).

Since they had been attending a Lutheran Church in New York, Roscoe and Josephine went to the Lutheran Church after first moving to North Carolina.  They stayed there for a number of years, in spite of the many problems they had with the church.  Roscoe said that they would get calls late at night complaining and telling them to leave the church.  Some of the callers were direct enough to say that they did not want any black people in their

choir.  Roscoe and his family might have left earlier if it had not been for one member of that church.  When he first asked if they could join the church she said, “This is God’s church and anyone can join.”  When they did finally leave the church this same woman called them and tried to get them to come back to the church.  They stayed there quite a while through a frequent turn-over in pastors, but when the church had finally had a pastor for about eleven years and then summarily dismissed him, the Conn’s decided they had had enough and left.  The next Sunday they started attending St. Francis.

We are so blessed to have Roscoe at St. Francis.  The choir would not be the “choir” without Roscoe.

Favorite poem is Footprints

The parable of the Good Samaritan is his favorite parable.

His favorite Psalm is the 23rd.

His favorite hymns are:

In the Hour of Trial

Lift High the Cross


Interviewer and writer Susan Keith


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