When he graduated from East Hall High School, A.W. Stover was recommended by a friend for a job at what was then J. Wendell Lancaster Jewelry and Music on Washington Street.
"Mrs. Lancaster asked Clarence Crenshaw at the old Piedmont Drug Store about me, and he recommended me for the job," Stover said. "I was hired that day and have been there ever since."
That was 48 years ago. And with the exception of a part-time calling as a church minister of music, it is the only job he has ever had.
If you bought a piano or organ around here, there’s a pretty good chance that A.W. either sold it to you, delivered it or ordered it from the factory.
This week, he is hanging up his piano peddling prowess, at least on a full-time basis. Let’s hope he never gives up on playing the piano.
It was a job that combined the best of both worlds for Stover. He began taking piano lessons from Maggie Ramsey as a youngster and became an accomplished musician. Working in a store that sold musical instruments was like a dream come true, and he continued to live that dream for the better part of the next five decades.
Joey Lancaster, who followed his father into the family business, said A.W. is like an older brother he never had.
In the early days, the Lancasters would send A.W. each afternoon in the delivery truck to pick up young Joey at Enota Elementary School.
Over 48 years, Stover estimates the number of pianos he has sold would be in the thousands, including everything from fancy grand pianos to cozy spinets, not to mention the many electronic pianos and keyboards.
"I found my niche and knew that was what I wanted to do. I just enjoyed my job," Stover said.
In addition to his full-time job, Stover accepted the call of Westside Baptist Church to be its minister of music in 1973. He held that post for the next 25 years. Recently, he resumed his music ministry at Westside on an interim basis.
One of his former choir members, Casey Cagle, would go on to become lieutenant governor, but he took a little time to praise his friend.
"He truly epitomizes the definition of servant leadership," Cagle told me on Tuesday. "A.W. is a very gracious, caring person and spent his life dedicated to his work at Lancasters. He is committed to his family, his church and to serving people in a Christ-like manner."
Stover had a health scare last year, suffering a heart attack at the Georgia Dome as North Hall faced off against Cairo in the state high school football semifinals. He recovered and returned to work, but decided that the end of the year also would be the end of his day-to-day work at his one and only job.
A.W. Stover’s work did not go unnoticed. He is a past recipient of the Yamaha Touchstone Award, the highest honor presented by the piano manufacturer. He has sold pianos to anxious moms who wanted their offspring to learn to play. He also has been involved in the selection of pianos for some of the region’s churches, auditoriums and other public venues.
How do you honor someone who has served a single company for 48 of its nearly 60 years? Joey Lancaster has offered a trip to Hawaii for A.W. and his lovely wife, Bobbie, who also worked a number of years for Lancaster Music.
"I think we’ll go," said Stover.
On behalf of piano and organ customers from all over North Georgia, we say thank you good friend and bon voyage.
Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 770-718-3423.