Fickling funeral draws huge crowd

mstucka@macon.comNovember 20, 2012 

Few people at Tuesday’s funeral for Neva Jane Langley Fickling seemed surprised that the Macon icon carefully scripted her own services, down to limiting her ministers’ remarks to just four minutes each.

But the service at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church featured music hand-picked by the Macon icon and former Miss America, with the music performed by Mercer University organizations she’d encouraged.

“Beautiful music, upbeat feeling,” said U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. “That’s the way Neva was. She enjoyed life, and that’s exactly the way she planned it.”

Pews in the church filled up 20 minutes before the service began. Among those paying their respect were government and university officials.

Fickling, 79, died at her home early Sunday morning. An accomplished pianist who was also known for her civic work, Fickling was Georgia’s only Miss American winner.

The Rev. Tommy Martin, Macon District superintendent for the United Methodist Church, said Fickling said she didn’t want any acolades said about her in her services.

Martin said she told him, “I have been blessed to have them spoken about me all my life. Let the music sing our song.”

Martin used Fickling’s own words, from a 2005 Telegraph interview, to explain her approach toward life: “I think a porch in the South is as important as grits for breakfast. I read something one time about the things you do on a porch, and it’s all so true: you shell peas, you court in the swing, you watch the rain, you rock your child, you read a book, you have a meal. I could live on the porch.”

But Fickling also lived for music. Former Mercer University president Kirby Godsey told The Telegraph that Fickling pushed the school to more closely embrace music.

“Neva Fickling embodied the highest and best spirit of this community, and challenged us to reach higher, to love more fully, and to be more gracious in our living,” Godsey said.

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