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Oh What a Beautiful City, Testimony from The Incomparable F. Retchitzky Jones

Whatever you call our beloved "Ms. Jones" anyone who's been to Emmanuel will know exactly who you are talking about. If you don't know her, see below for a letter from a longtime friend and parishioner, read to her on a recent birthday. Ms. Jones was given a gift this year for her 90th birthday, from the congregation, to travel to London for her and a companion. Visiting London is on her "outstanding" bucket list, and those who were present for the gift-giving can testify, that she was not expecting this outpouring of love and generosity!

This month, Ms. Jones spoke during Morning Prayer about her experience of growing up in New Jersey in the Baptist Church. She described having her musical gift supported and encouraged by others which precipitated her move to Geneva in the mid 50's to study music at the Conservatory. As anyone assimilating to a new culture can tell you, it is difficult, and hers was not a path made easier by economic and racial divisions of the time. Ms. Jones described feeling discriminated against, with her place in the "fur coat set, vs. the cloth coat set" being made clear. Despite those painful times, she also talked about hope and friendship, and those who stood by her side at Emmanuel, confirming that she belonged. We're thankful for all of those angels along her path who guided her to us, and showed her that she had found her home at Emmanuel.

Enjoy this video of her recent performance of "Oh What a Beautiful City." We catch a glimpse of heaven when she sings, and we are certain that Geneva is made more beautiful with her in our midst.

"Dear Mrs. Retchitzky

Dear Ms Jones

Dear Fanni,

How to describe how you have enhanced our lives over the years?

Let me do it through all 5 senses.


The minute you walk into a room, it brightens. Your stunning countenance with outfits of bright colors (thanks to the talents of Marcel) with matching hats contribute to that, but it is your presence that remains with us. It is tangible. Even if we do not see you, we know you are in the room. You command our attention. This was evident when you sang during the baptism of our granddaughter. At 4 months old, she knew you were singing to her and for her and she kept her raptured eyes focused on you through every verse.

2nd SOUND: What a barren world this would be without your voice!

Your melodious greetings, prayers and scripture readings as well as song.

How I love to sit in front of you in church! During the hymns, I can sing as joyously as I want and it will be your beautiful voice that resonates in my ears.

Many of us still get goose bumps remembering your renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner 4th of July Celebrations at the Bout du Monde and the American Ambassador’s Residence.

3rd SMELL: The tantalizing aromas of cooking and baking. Divine odors of chili, cakes, and flowers. It is little wonder that the Emmanuel Church Community’s Treasured Recipes cookbook is dedicated to Mrs. F. Retchitzky-Jones.

4th TASTE: You are an angel of culinary delights … cakes, chili, chicken wings, …the list is inexhaustible.

A ‘taste’ of your singing that many may not have experienced and that shows another side of our Ms Jones, was when you sang Makin Whoopee with Vicky Henderson for the American Children’s Citizenship Rights League (ACCRL) in 1978. You brought the house down!

5th TOUCH: You touch our hearts and leave a permanent imprint through your presence, your flair, your perseverance, your outreach, your commitment, your personal code of ethics, your bountiful generosity, giving of your talents, your gifts and your love.

There are moments when someone walks into your life unexpectedly. You don’t know where they came from or why they are there. - They just suddenly are! And because of their presence the sun shines brighter and colors take on deeper hues. They are gifts from God.

These special people sometimes pass through our lives rapidly leaving a lasting imprint on our hearts. This is definitely you, for each person in this room.

Other times special relationships bounce back into our lives like a whiffle ball; we don’t know when they are coming or where they will go when they leave.

But the most precious are those who reappear constantly like the sun over the horizon, bringing their light and warmth to the world. Even when they are not with you, you live with the intensity of their light and joy knowing that, like the sun, they are still there and you will have the joy of sharing happy moments with them again.

Thank you, Fanni, for being a “sun” in our lives. You are special to each us and we are thankful that you are who you are.

We love you!" - B. Fatio

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