A Noble Cause

A Scholarship in Memory of Connie Noble

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Connie Noble was arguably one of the best Tenors in the history of Sweet Adelines. She was the only person in the history of the organization to sing in four international championship quartets. They were:

• The Fourth Edition, in 1972,
• The High Society, in 1976,
• Savvy, in 1988, and
• Fanatix, in 2002.

Connie was a member of Sweet Adelines, and performed on stage, in one of her championship quartets, across a career that spanned fifty years. During those years, she sang in hundreds of places that ranged from high school auditoriums in small towns to Carnegie Hall in New York, to The Royal Albert Hall in London, and every place in between. One of her quartets (Fanatix) even sang at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. She performed on USO shows with High Society for our troops in Germany. Later in life, she coached quartets and choruses in the United States, Ireland, and Australia.

Many of Connie’s friendships lasted her entire lifetime. Several of her high school friends visited our home when we were all in our seventies.

Connie played three instruments in her high school band and was chosen by her fellow band members to receive the John Phillip Sousa Award, which is displayed in our home with her Sweet Adelines trophies. That award, along with the crowns she won, was important to her because it represented acknowledgement of excellence by her peers.

In addition, Connie enjoyed people, made friends easily, and knew how to throw great parties. She loved beautiful cars; her last one was a red Italian racing Jaguar XK.

All of this was done while maintaining a life in the regular world. She worked her way up to an important position in a Fortune 500 company with a high school education.

We met in 1984. We shared a life together. I was her husband, and while I didn’t see all of the events above take place, I was witnessed many of them. And though I miss her so very much now, you must understand that I am one of the luckiest guys you have ever heard of.

— Bob Decker

Thank you CONNIE, for bringing us JOY with your ANGEL TENOR!!!

— JULIE ZEHNDER

Imagine being in a limo in a snowstorm traveling from a Portage Glacier back to Anchorage, Alaska, when a Jeep honks and pulls the limo over. Out pops Connie to say hello to our quartet who were in town to do a show. There we stood in the snow laughing about how she found us and made her brother flag us down. What a sweetheart!

— Donna Kleinschmidt

I live an hour away from Connie and saw her two weeks before she passed, but was on the way to see her on the day she died. She and I weren’t meant to have another visit but she knew how much her family loved her.

Love is all you need (The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967.)

A tall, lean, auburn-haired woman who once played basketball wearing a tiara, gold lamé jumpsuit, and black high-topped tennis shoes died on February 19, 2018. She was seventy-three years young. Her heart stopped beating, but cancer didn’t stop her spirit or the love around her.

Aunt Connie (Constance Louise Noble Decker) died from breast cancer spreading to other organs. She found out she had cancer at the same time she decided to retire from her corporate career in 2013. It wasn’t fair for cancer to come when she finally had the time to pursue her other passions in life, but it came anyway. She faced it head-on and with grace.

Connie had a huge personality, bigger than the small Ohio town she grew up in. As the middle child of a family with a sister who was fifteen years older and a baby brother who was one year younger, she had to fight to shine, and shine she did. Connie was a champion in the world of female barbershop quartet singing. A talented singer and conductor, she was an International Queen of Harmony four times, the only woman to ever win that honor.

The growth of Connie’s cancer looked like it might be slowing down in November 2017 when Bob Decker, her life partner of thirty-three years, proposed marriage. They were thrilled, as were their family and friends. A mysterious pain in December caused Connie to have two biopsies. Her prognosis worsened after each one. An intimate wedding at the San Diego County Administration Building on January eighteenth was followed by a luncheon at Bob and Connie’s
favorite bayside restaurant in Coronado, Peohe’s. One month and one day later, she was gone.

The Guardian of Water stands outside the site of Connie and Bob’s wedding. She is a limestone statue of a woman holding a water jar on her shoulder, representing the importance of water in this semi-arid land. I thought of the statue as I drove home after a last-ditch effort to visit Connie on the day of her death. The news of her passing came as I was driving, with much-needed rain hitting my windshield.

Connie went bravely, if with reluctance, into that dark night. I saw her two weeks before she died, after all hope of a cure had vanished. What she said to me when we hugged upon my departure was “Damn, I really wanted to make it to ninety.” Then she hugged my younger daughter Marie, her great-niece. Choking back a sob Connie said, “Tell your sister goodbye for me. I don’t think I’ll ever see her again.”

Aunt Connie loved life and life loved her back. She was a spit-fire who re-invented herself after moving from Ohio to California in a great leap of faith and determination in her late-twenties. She gave her first nephew, Tommy Lee Bantz, my first husband, her well-loved, somewhat-battered British sports car. Tom made the same leap from Ohio to the West Coast and at the same age as his aunt. He and I drove the truculent car from San Diego to Sacramento in pelting rain, and without second gear. In the 1970s Connie drove the convertible, an impractical transportation choice for Ohio winters, from the Midwest to the Golden State, where she thrived.

Although Connie didn’t have biological children, she adored her nieces, nephews, stepchildren, and all of their children. She delighted in each addition to the next generation. Family was important to her. Bob, her longtime partner and new husband, and her brother, Larry, stayed by her side throughout her final days at home in hospice care. It was a comfort to them, and to her, to receive an outpouring of love from her friends and family throughout the world.

Connie’s vibrant tenor voice was diminished by cancer treatments, but she was able to keep singing until the last two years of her life. A shiny black baby grand piano still sits in her cozy, forest-green living room with a view of golden-brown hills outside the sliding glass doors onto her back deck. She taught thousands of people to sing, and to love singing as much as she did. Several of her nieces and great-nieces have inherited her strong pipes, not to mention her strong personality. Connie will be missed. Her love of life and of singing will live on.

“That Love is all that is, Is all we know of Love.”—Emily Dickinson

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
—1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)

Sweet Adelines International website: https://sweetadelines.com/

A scholarship fund for student singers has been established in memory of Connie.

— Lori Austin (niece)

We did a Rogers and Hammerstein show and Connie wore a gown identical to the one in the movie and danced to “Shall We Dance”….she looked so beautiful and I will never forget that show and the performance in Tucson when we sang “My Buddy” – very touching moments.

— Donna Johnson (Shepard)

© 2018 A Noble Cause

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