Remembering a Beautiful Soul...
Verlene Francis Abston Robinson was born to J.B. and Mable Abston of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, on March 8, 1934, the oldest of four from this union. Upon the passing of her mother when Verlene was age seven, she and her siblings were reared by her maternal grandparents. Thus, she developed a love for family that is unmatched.
Early in life, Verlene understood things that most young people had yet to learn. Her walk with the Lord began at an early age. She accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior and united with the Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet. She experienced the presence of God in her life and was given the opportunity to minister to others, even as a child. Most people who knew Verlene also knew that she loved to sing. She began ministering through song in childhood and continued throughout adulthood. For a time, Verlene and her sister Eleanor sang with a group known as the Triple Airs. The group sang at church programs in their local area. She continued to sing over the years at various church programs as well as at the numerous Women’s Day programs where she served as speaker throughout Tennessee and Kentucky. It was not surprising when, sometime in the mid-1980’s, Verlene recorded an album titled, I Believe in Miracles. She expressed that the album and title song were given to her by God. On the album, she shared the spotlight with lifelong friend, Ms. Mary L. Price, nephew Michael Gordon, daughter LaRaine, and many others in the church family.
Verlene was educated in the Mt. Juliet and Lebanon, Tennessee school systems, graduating from Wilson County High School with the class of 1952. That fall, she began matriculating at Tennessee A&I College. She later attended American Baptist College of American Baptist Theological Seminary, where she studied for a degree in Theology. While at Tennessee State, she met and married William Henry Robinson of Readyville, Tennessee, on June 20, 1953. To their union three children were born.
After she married and moved to Nashville, she and her husband united with Fourteenth Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, under the pastorate of Rev. Felton Price. Her church service there began with learning under her pastor, singing in the choir ministry, and working as a very young woman in the church kitchen ministry. However, this was only the beginning for her.
Verlene continued her work in the church by fulfilling the Great Commission mandate to teach others in the ways of Jesus. She organized what is now the Missionary Department at Fourteenth Avenue. Through this effort, she trained women young and old to continue the “good fight of faith” and support one another in this battle called life. She also taught adult Sunday school for more than twenty-five years. The church’s Scholarship Program and the annual Glove Tea were visions given to her by God. Since the Scholarship Program was implemented by the church, it has been a blessing to many young people for nearly forty years. The beloved annual Glove Tea, which benefited the church anniversary, was a Fourteenth Avenue staple for forty-four years, until her health began to fail.
Verlene had many interests in life. Not only did she love to share words of encouragement with others and sing, but she also loved to read. She was known for the many books that filled her home. She loved art as well, and her home was filled with many trinkets and artifacts that friends and family gifted her over the years. Home was also the place where she loved to cook, and she was known for the many delicious meals she prepared and served with love. She became well known for her iced tea and tea cakes. Much like the biblical personality Lydia, Verlene served pastors, preachers, missionaries, educators, students, CEOs, young, old, family, friends, and foreigners in her home. Serving was her absolute pleasure!
Verlene’s career vocation began while she was attending Tennessee A&I, during which time she learned special serving techniques while working at the B&W Cafeteria in downtown Nashville. It was there she met lifelong friend, Mary L. Price. She was also known by many as the Happy Day Laundry Lady, where she was employed for several years. She later became the first African-American cashier at the Bordeaux Bill Crook’s Food Town Store, where she paved the way and opened the door of opportunities for others. One of her earlier positions with the University of Tennessee Extension School gave her a providential opportunity for a career in the social services realm. Later, Verlene became known as one of the best employees the Meharry Medical Comprehensive Health Group (MMCH) had to offer. When MMCH closed their doors, another door opened for her with Metro General Hospital in the Social Services Department. She worked and served individuals and families at General Hospital until her retirement. Many of the employees of MMCH and General Hospital became as family to her.
Verlene was always involved in working to help people achieve their dreams and to encourage others. She was a Cub Scout Den Mother for Den 3 Cub, Pack 81 at King’s Lane Elementary School for several years. She was a member of the Matron’s Auxiliary of American Baptist College that helped to support scholastic goals for students. She was a member of Annie L. White Lodge Number 038 of the Order of the Eastern Star.
One of Verlene’s life mottos was, “I am a salesperson for Jesus.” Thus, it did not surprise others when she became a sales representative for Lady Finelle Cosmetics and A. L. Williams Financial Services, where she earned trips to Mexico and Las Vegas for top sales.
She lived her life always encouraging others and reminding others that “God Is!”
Verlene was preceded in death by her daughter, Henri Dean Robinson; parents, J.B. and Mable Abston; grandparents, Emanuel and Luella Lester; brother, Alton Abston; sister, Eleanor A. Gordon; brothers-in-law, Richard Gordon and Rev. W. L. Billups; sister-in-law, Joyce Abston; and niece, Renee McGee.
Verlene is survived by daughter, Dr. E. LaRaine (Kenneth Maurice) Taylor and son, William Dale Robinson; grandchildren, Nichelé (Dr. Letoni) Murry, Dr. Mistyé Taylor (LaJuan) Clark, and Kenneth Taylor, II; granddaughter-in-love, Elisha Taylor; great-grandchildren, LaJuan Clark, II, Taylor Murry, Letoni Murry, II, Paige Clark, Will Taylor, Lauryn Taylor, and Ethen Taylor. She has two surviving siblings, Mrs. Marjorie Billups and Dr. Emanuel J. Abston, Atlanta, GA.
She also leaves a host of nieces and nephews: Michael (Dr. Debra) Gordon, Stone Mountain, GA, Richlyn (Dr. Reginald) Bigham, South Bend, IN, LaVette Gordon, Swansea, IL, Cassandra Abston, Atlanta, GA, Eric (Amanda) Abston, Cedric Abston, and David Abston, all of Jackson, MS; devoted cousins, Gloria (Dr. Theodore) Bryson, Linda (George) Crutcher, Mt. Juliet, TN, and Dr. Sherry (Dr. Victor) Blake, Atlanta, GA; adopted children, Mr. Dan and Mrs. Becki Baker and son, Coy, Rockford, TN; special friends as family, Mary L. Price, Mrs. Belinda Coleman, Rev. Olivia M. Cloud, Mrs. Nannette Hall, Ms. Velma McQuiddy, Pastor Hannah Conley, Mrs. Patricia Jones, Mrs. Ruby London, Mrs. Gwen Watson, Ms. Mary Harris, Mrs. Carrie Ransom, Dr. Lanney Babb and Rosanna Jackson; her beloved Fourteenth Avenue family and her Missionary Department sisters, and many other lifelong friends.
The Celebration of Life service will be live streamed on Facebook at Lewis-Wright FD.