Cheryl and Richard Shropshire of D’Iberville had a musical marriage made in heaven. In fact, music brought them together.
“Richard was born in Camden, N.J., and I was born in Pascagoula. We met in music history at Florida State (University),” Cheryl Shropshire said.
“They had a ‘drop the needle test,’ ” she said.
In the test, the instructor would, literally, drop the stereo needle on a classical music recording and the students had to identify the song, composer, movement and passage.
“Well, the vocal majors had a tough time, so we would try to get with the instrument majors,” she said. “One day, I got in and there was just one seat left, and it was next to Richard. He turned to me and said, ‘Will you scratch my back?’ Well, I did. It surprised me so much. We started dating from there, and we have been scratching each other’s backs ever since.”
Richard Shropshire, 71, died Aug. 21 after a heart attack, his wife said. They would have celebrated their 50th anniversary in December.
A memorial service will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at First Baptist Church Biloxi, with visitation from 6 to 7 p.m.
“The Lord knew his arteries were blocked; who knows what else he prevented him from suffering,” Cheryl said.
Coastians probably are familiar with Richard Shropshire for both his music and The Barnabas Center, his Christian counseling service. He served 14 years as a pastor.
“He also gave marriage conferences all over the Coast and some up north of the Coast,” his wife said. “He was such a disciplined person. He would pray for everybody he counseled with. He would take a block of them and pray for them on a rotation, and he would call pastors on a rotation basis and pray for them, too. He would ask them, ‘What can I pray for you today?’
“In fact, the reason he called it The Barnabas Center was because Barnabas was an encourager. Teaching and administration were his spiritual gifts.”
Shropshire wrote “close to 30 books,” recorded about 16 CDs and was an artist, a poet and even did woodwork, his wife said. He made her a china cabinet and, for their last Christmas together, he reproduced a picture she found online and wrote a poem to her.
“He would find Rube Goldberg solutions to problems,” she said with a soft laugh. “He was such a versatile person. He was a real Renaissance man.”
Music might be the way most people are familiar with him.
“He played four instruments: soprano and alto sax, clarinet and flute,” Cheryl said. “The clarinet, though, was the only one he had training in. He played the clarinet from age 10 and picked up the rest along the way.”
He also had a talent for getting music right the first time, said David Dunkin, longtime friend and worship pastor at Cedar Lake Christian Assembly in Biloxi.
“He wanted to make a difference with the time God gave him here on this Earth and I know for a fact he did,” Dunkin said in a comment on Facebook this week. “He loved to make you laugh, and I couldn’t help but laugh myself even when the jokes were corny ... which was pretty much all the time! We spent quite a bit of time in my office recording his music projects. I was always amazed at his ability to record an entire song and not make a mistake. I nicknamed him the one-take wonder.”
Cheryl also recalled Richard’s “droll Yankee humor, and our younger son and he are both punsters.”
Cheryl has been hearing from people across the Coast, state and even around the country this week, she said.
“I may not know just how many lives he has touched,” she said. “I’ve seen over and over, ‘Richard saved our marriage.’ ‘Richard saved our marriage.’ ”
Faith played a vital part in his life and his counseling work, Cheryl said, noting Richard would give his testimony at events, whether faith-based or secular.
“I used to say we needed to put in a baptismal in the office,” she said. “He would come out and say, ‘It’s a girl!’ Or ‘It’s a boy!’ Or ‘It’s a boy and a girl!’ That’s the first thing he dealt with in couples’ counseling, their salvation.
“He was always a good husband, but after he became a marriage counselor, he was even better.”
She said a portion of Scripture has been especially comforting after her husband’s death.
“The Lord gave this to me this week. It’s from Psalm 139,” she said.
The passage, Psalm 139:16 in the New International Version: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
“He has completed the mission he was was put on Earth to do,” Cheryl said.