The Rev. Dr. C. A Hunt came to the podium and asked the crowd to rise as the choir sang in the background. He came with encouraging words to let the congregation know that they were going to celebrate the wonderful life of Dr. Thomas H. De Laine Sr. After four minutes of talking, static and pooping sounds came from the microphone. Rev. Hunt jokingly said, “Maybe that’s God getting us tuned up, because I think Dr. De Laine would want us to be tuned properly.”
The laughter of over 500 filled the Epworth United Methodist Church sanctuary that morning, as those assembled agreed with the comment. That kicked off the homegoing service of Dr. Delaine at 11:30 am on March 1.
The scripture reading, Proverbs 3:1-6, by Leslie De Laine Westray, niece the late Dr. De Laine, was prefaced with her remarks. “Uncle Thomas was awesome,” she said. “There is no other word to describe him.”
Those were the first of many kind words from family members and close friends of Dr. De Laine.
The Rev. Theodore McClain informed the audience Dr. De Laine was faithful and loving, but had hidden talents. “He could take a pencil and give you a story, so much so that you would focus on that pencil and say, ‘Jeez, I never knew that.’ He was just that type of person,” Rev. McClain said.
Dr. De Laine was talented and shared his musical gifts as a teacher and mentor. Outside of his music life, he was active in professional organizations that highlighted African-American history.
Sylvia Cyrus, executive director of the Association for the Study of African American Life in History (ASALH), shared how Dr. De Laine’s life could be used as an example of how we should live. “He has left us a life that lets us know we have to do more to help our people, young people and the world,” said Cyrus. “He was a man of action, he wasn’t just a talker.”
Cyrus told how Dr. De Laine drove to D.C. to give his input in meetings on how to find a way to increase membership, particularly youth membership. His passion for youth and mentoring was evident when Melvin Miles, a former student and now, director of bands at Morgan State University, came to speak on behalf of the students. “He was my teacher, mentor and friend. He changed my life”, said Miles.
“He never stopped teaching us. He taught us style and swag. He was a man of impeccable taste.”
Miles added that outside of music Dr. De Laine taught them values. As a result of his influence, his students became engineers, producers, teachers, and parents.
Miles asked Dr. De Laine’s students to stand and nearly twenty individuals rose to their feet.
After the reflections and proclamations, Rev. Hunt returned to give the eulogy. His message, from 1 Peter Chapter 5, was that suffering is universal, but through it all “God Cares.” Rev. Hunt charged the congregation with remembering, “Whatever you will go through tonight or the days ahead, you need to know that God cares.”
The pastor mentioned that he was aware Dr. De Laine, even with his accolades and achievements, was suffering before his death. He posed a question that resonated with the audience. “When we go through what will be our response?”
In closing, Rev. Hunt reminded the gathered family and friends, to be humble for the Lord. He said Dr. De Laine had an extraordinary level of musical talent, and dressed sharp, but he always remained humble.
Dr. De Laine’s was interred at Druid Ridge Cemetery, Park Heights Avenue in Pikesville.