Geneva Henderson Bost, 103, music educator

January 22, 2018 GMT

Geneva Henderson Bost, a longtime music teacher, died peacefully on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, at her home in Williamstown, N.J. She was 103.

She was born and raised in Darby.

She was born on April 8, 1914, to Wilbur and Trimalla Henderson, native North Carolinians who met in Philadelphia and married after leaving the racial oppression of the Jim Crow South. Her paternal grandfather, Rev. Charles Henderson, was born a slave in Granville County, N.C. in 1861. Her ancestry included slaves, free Blacks, and Native Americans in and around Henderson, N.C.

Bost was the oldest of six children. Her father was a self-taught musician who tutored her on the piano and other instruments. Eventually, she learned to play 12 instruments. Graduating from Darby High School in 1931 during the Great Depression, she went to work in the kitchen of Delaware County Hospital to save money for college.

In 1932, Bost was accepted to West Chester State Teachers College (now West Chester University), but her acceptance was withdrawn after the college learned she was African-American. Her mother was furious and told her devastated daughter, “We may be Negroes, but we are tax-paying Negroes.”

Her mother had a contentious meeting with the dean, in which she persuaded him to restore her daughter’s acceptance. Bost earned her degree in 1936.

As an African-American, Bost suffered indignities of student life at West Chester. She was not permitted to live in the dormitories nor eat in the dining halls. In spite of her struggles — financial and racial — her talent won support among the faculty, especially her voice teacher.

In 1935, Bost was the first African-American student selected to perform “O Holy Night,” the coveted honor solo at the Holiday Concert, an annual tradition still maintained at the university.

Bost earned a master’s degree in music education from Temple University in 1962. She also obtained her certification to teach fine arts from the Tyler School in 1955.

Bost taught music at Darby Township Junior High School in Sharon Hill and Williamstown Junior High School in Gloucester County, N.J. She retired from full-time classroom teaching in 1982.

In 1997, the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly honored Bost for her career in music, which included teacher, band director and performer in recital and with professional community groups.

Bost provided free music lessons to children. An active member of the First Presbyterian Church of Williamstown, she continued to play the piano and organ at her church until she was 99.

Bost received two awards from West Chester University. In 2006, she was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Performing Arts and Music. In accepting the award, Bost remarked, “Listening to a student, young or old, talented or not, play a song all the way through that very first time: there is a beauty, joy and magic in this gift that all music teachers feel.”

In 2007, she was awarded the Drum Major for Justice Award, a prestigious award presented to alumni who have followed in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. by working to gain justice for others.

She was preceded in death by her husbands, James Hill, James Norwood and Lee Bost.

She is survived by: her son, James, daughter-in-law, Frances, and other relatives and friends.

Services will be held Friday at the First Presbyterian Church, 430 S. Main St., Williamstown, N.J. Viewing is at 10 a.m. Services will follow at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in her memory to the First Presbyterian Church in Williamstown or to the Music Education Department at West Chester State University.