A tribute to Thelma Coleman: Five things I learned from a senior saint

Eric Helm, left and Mrs. Thelma Coleman at a church supper at Frizzellburg Bible Church in May 2018. Mrs. Coleman, known as the Mayor of Frizzellburg, died at 100 years of age on Oct. 12.
Eric Helm, left and Mrs. Thelma Coleman at a church supper at Frizzellburg Bible Church in May 2018. Mrs. Coleman, known as the Mayor of Frizzellburg, died at 100 years of age on Oct. 12. (Courtesy Photo)

The unofficial mayor of Frizzellburg, Mrs. Thelma Coleman, passed away at the age of 100 on Oct. 12. This beautiful soul was my sister in Christ and a huge part of our church family.

From the time Coleman and her late husband Royer moved to Frizzellburg in 1948, she was an important part of Frizzellburg Bible Church. Not just a part of the church; but as a leader, a teacher, a board member, and in the last few decades, she was a large part of the very heartbeat of ministry at her church.


I loved this senior saint, as did most everyone who met her. Coleman was affectionately known as “TC.” She was a presence who is greatly missed at her church and the community at large.

While reflecting on the many years I knew TC, I came to realize there are five key lessons she taught me:


First, TC taught people how to love like Jesus.

Jesus said his disciples will be known by their love. That is how we knew TC. The capacity for love that TC had was unmeasured. TC loved all, regardless of their walk of life. TC had a genuine gift to make everyone she encountered feel special.

Everyone would come to TC before or after the church service for a hug, a handshake, or just a kind word. TC was genuine in her concern for people. When TC was in her late 90s she personally brought meals to my family when we welcomed babies into our home. Through all these things and more you could tell TC was a Christian by her love.

The second thing she taught me was how to be a doer of the work.

TC was a doer of the work by example and encouraged others to be soldier for Christ as well. TC was involved in a number of the ministries in the community for decades. She served as a Deaconess of her church and volunteered with the Rescue Mission Auxiliary, Child Evangelism Fellowship, and at Carroll Hospital Center. TC did not have to ask anyone what needed to be done — she acted when and where she saw a need.

Third, she taught me was how to disciple.

TC was an active disciple right up until her death. During most of TC’s life at Frizzellburg Bible Church she taught Sunday School, assisted with Vacation Bible School, and actively participated in the Ladies Aid group.

TC’s fourth lesson in life was how to live a disciplined life.

TC was a disciplined lady, especially in her relationship with God. At the end of Titus 1:8 (ESV) we are told to be disciplined. TC attended church faithfully right up until she passed away. She was a fixture at the prayer meeting on Wednesdays, and attended almost all the church events. For more than a decade TC said she physically did not feel like coming to church yet she always felt better once she arrived.

TC was a faithful Bible student, reading and studying a chapter a day. She was also a prayer warrior who was always concerned for the well-being of others. TC prayed for other people, and asked folks in the church to pray for friends, family, and anyone she knew that needed it. TC taught me how to live a spiritually disciplined life.

Fifth, TC taught me how to encourage others. TC had a heart of encouragement and comfort. Until TC was 97 she regularly went on our fall hayride, walked through Frizzellburg to go Christmas caroling, often in frigid temperatures, and regularly supported the younger members of the church who took mission trips.

Other ways she encouraged folks were very personal. Before a fellow parishioner, John Shippee, passed away a few years ago; he announced in church he was having a very challenging health issue — an illness that would later take his life. TC left a voicemail for him that was heartwarming. Shippee saved it and every time he was having a horrible day he would listen to that message and instantly felt better.


Through TC’s own struggles with aging she made encouragement a part of her very soul. She constantly visited friends, comforted those in grief, and loved everyone God put in front of her. TC comforted with a genuine heart.

What was the end result of this?

TC was a 100-year-old senior saint who was called home to heaven. A full church of friends and relatives came to say goodbye. This included five generations of family, three generations of friends, and a legacy of love. TC, lived her life as a valued child of God and leaves behind a beautiful legacy.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun