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Veteran Volunteers

Couple celebrates more than 60 years of volunteering

March 30, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald
GLOVERSVILLE — When Beatrice and Frank Topliff volunteered to help out with Sunday School at Foothills United Methodist Church four years ago they noted past experience in the area — 50 years of it.

“They’d been ministering for quite a few years at North Main United Methodist Church before coming here,” Foothills Pastor Wayne Jones said. “Beatrice leads the fourth and fifth graders.”

Jones said the Topliffs joined the Foothills congregation after the Fremont Street, and First Methodist Church of Johnstown and Gloversville merged.

Beatrice said along with 50 years teaching Sunday school at North Main United Methodist Church, she helped with both junior and senior choirs, served as both president and vice-president of the United Methodist Women and as youth counselor for junior high youth.

She said she also has been a Cub Scout den mother, a Brownie leader and vice president of the Gloversville Lion’s Auxiliary.

For 10 years, starting in 1994, the Topliffs ran a bread give-away at North Main United Methodist Church.

When Beatrice met Frank, she put his talent playing piano to use as an accompanist at Sunday school where he also helped with crafts.

That’s gone on since 1947 when they married.

“Frank helped out with the song service playing songs and he was an usher at the camp in Northville in Palmer’s Heights,” Beatrice said.

Frank still is playing music, but must be excused early for his gig at the White Holland House where he plays Sunday afternoons with the Butch Robertshaw Trio.

“It keeps me out of the rocking chair,” Topliff said.

Frank, 87, said he often is asked how he keeps up his busy schedule at his age and suffering with arthritis. He just laughs, he said, and tells them it “keeps me from falling asleep.”

Along with playing at the White Holland House, Frank is in a group called the Saints that plays in the Cooperstown area and makes the rounds of elderly and nursing homes such as the Fulton County Residential Facility, Willing Helpers Home, River Ridge, Hillcrest, St. Johnsville Nursing Home and Palatine Nursing Home.

“I play a mix of Dixieland and standards from the 1930s and 1940s,” he said. “I’ve played the Arkell Hall in Canajoharie, too,”

Topliff said his “15 minutes of fame” came when he was called upon to play a duet with concert pianist Dino Kartsonokis in Branson, Mo., in 1998.

“They must have liked me,” he said. “They gave me a standing ovation.”

Although Frank admits to his 87 years of age, Beatrice says she is “39 and counting.” Their daughter, Carol Johnson, lives upstairs from her parents and remembers good times growing up in the family.

“We were a very active family,” she said. “We traveled a lot.”

Frank started contract “silking” gloves for local glove companies in the area when he was “between jobs.” Silking, he said, is the gathered stitching on the backs of dress gloves.

After that, he was an arc welder for General Electric Co. and Hussman Corp., but retired in 1984.

“I put my welding helmet down in the basement and haven’t picked it up since,” he said.

Beatrice said she still does a little contract glove silking.

“I’ve been doing that about 50 years, too,” she said.

Beatrice said while they did contract glove silking for many companies, most of it was for the former Daniel C. Miller Glove Co. on South Main Street in Gloversville and she still does some for Perrella Glove Co. on Foster Street in the city.

Frank hasn’t put down the keyboard yet though. He said he uses existing pianos at the nursing homes when he plays.

“Some are good and some are lousy” he said with a smile.

Frank said he likes to bring some uplifting music to shut-in’s, especially music they recognize from many years ago.

“I play anywhere they want me,” he said.

When asked how he can play with arthritic hands, he keeps smiling as he answers.

“Very carefully,” he said.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at


Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen
Beatrice and Frank Topliff look over a newsletter from their church at their home in Gloversville Tuesday.



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