I didn't know Miss Katie well. Certainly not as well as those who gathered at St. Mark's United Methodist Church on a beautiful sunny morning June 26 for the homegoing celebration of Catherine Johnstone Hopkins. The lifelong Laurel resident, who was affectionately called Miss Katie for most of her 105 years, passed away June 21 at 105.
I had the distinct privilege — honor, really — to be present at the celebration of her 100th birthday back in 2006 and write about her for the Laurel Leader. I was there at the invitation of Ernestine Gibson, to whom I will always be grateful for introducing me to that special lady.
When I got the news of Miss Katie's passing, I felt sadness, but also hope. Sadness that such a long and lovely life had to end, and hope that I, we, can all live such a full life. And also hope that she is up "there" putting in a good word for us.
Born in her parents' home on Ninth Street in Laurel in 1906 — the year of the first radio broadcast and the year the Wright Brothers were granted a patent for their "Flying Machine" — Miss Katie lived a quiet, dignified life of faith, family, friends and music.
And so it was with the celebration of her homegoing: In the church she loved and supported, her friends and family filled the air with loving remembrances, blessings and joyous song. With the Rev. Robbie R. Morganfield officiating, the service began with a number of folks sharing the lessons of love and life that they learned from Miss Katie's example. Common threads woven through their words were stories about her cooking, her music and the seemingly unlimited love and patience she had for kids.
Then Jacqueline Jones took the microphone and, after recounting their long friendship, began telling about being with Miss Katie in her final moments. She told us how she comforted her by singing "In The Cross" as she held Miss Katie's hand and stroked her head. It was a tender retelling of such an intimate occasion. And as Jackie told it she began singing, interspersing verses of "In The Cross" with her account of her last moments with Miss Katie. Slowly, the congregation joined Jackie when she sang, followed by the keyboardist, and by the end of her story, the full choir. It was transcendent; the most moving account of someone saying goodbye to a loved one that I have ever experienced. And one I will never forget.
Considering her long life of devotion and good works, it would be easy to say about her homegoing celebration that, for one final time, Miss Katie helped bring others closer to God.
Mike McLaughlin is a former neighborhood columnist for the Laurel Leader.