Two men sitting at a table

Babachu Spriggs and Bob Roehm at The Largest Table

I learned yesterday that Babachu Spriggs, a friend of mine with whom I had frequently performed music on Wednesdays at noon at a church in downtown Columbus, has died.

The news first arrived in my e-mail Inbox early yesterday morning [literally in the middle of the night]; a link to a news story in The Columbus Dispatch appeared in the "notification" area of my computer as soon as I had turned it on, several hours later, also early yesterday morning.

Now there are two news stories about Babachu in The Columbus Dispatch; below are the links to those two news stories.

1. Columbus' beloved 'dancing guy,' known for brightening up local festivals, has died

2. Babachu Spriggs: Near East Side Church gathering mourns ComFest dancer with storied past

Babachu and I had first met because I would often play piano, between 2012 and 2018, during a weekly worship service that would immediately precede The Largest Table, a free meal for low-income and other people that is served on Wednesdays at noon at St. John's United Church of Christ at 59 E. Mound St.

Babachu would often sing solos during those weekly worship services; I would often accompany him on a grand piano.

Except for "The Lord's Prayer" [the familiar-to-many song by Albert Hay Malotte], most of the songs that Babachu would sing had been unfamiliar to me. Two of his songs that I remember right now are "Whisper His Name" and "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."

Since I always play piano "by ear," I had usually been able to "follow" Babachu's unique style of singing appropriately; even if my accompaniment had used a wrong chord for a brief moment, my accompaniment would quickly move to a better chord and still "work."

I resigned from playing piano at St. John's during May 2018 and immediately lost touch with Babachu. Now, because of COVID-19, there is no worship service on Wednesdays and therefore there is no need for anyone to play music on Wednesdays. The Largest Table still serves food but now serves only "to-go" food that people may pick up during the designated hours and then eat somewhere else.

Many of the facts of Babachu's death are unknown at present because he had been homeless and he had had no permanent address. He had been either 80 years old or 81 years old depending on which source you believe. It is fairly certain that Babachu had died sometime during the past six weeks; it is very likely that he had frozen to death while outside during this winter's extremely cold weather.

There are unconfirmed reports that Babachu had actually died while sitting on the steps of St. John's UCC, the church where he and I used to do music together. One of the news stories had said that he had "frozen to death" on "on the steps of a downtown church"; a recent sermon at St. John's UCC had reportedly spoken about "a homeless person" who had died while sitting on their front steps but that person had not been named in that sermon.

Babachu and I would occasionally "hang out" together after having done music together at St. John's unless I had a commitment immediately afterwards.

One visit with Babachu that I fondly remember had been a lengthy visit to Bicentennial Park, during the summer, immediately after The Largest Table, with its fountains that would be turning on and off randomly while children would be running through the water [or non-water] and Babachu would sometimes be dancing around the area.

I remember Babachu telling me that the police would occasionally approach him while he had been dancing in public and would ask him questions because they had considered his dancing in public to be "suspicious activity."

The final time when Babachu and I had seen each other had been when we had run into each other near the boarded-up former Family Dollar store at N. High St. and W. Fourth Ave.

We talked for perhaps 20 minutes while standing behind concrete construction barriers that had been preventing vehicular traffic on N. High St. from hitting us. I did not expect that that chance encounter would be the final time when Babachu and I would see each other.

Babachu had always been an extremely joyful person in spite of living an extremely challenging life during his final years; he will definitely be missed.