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‘A friend to everyone that met him’

A multitude of people in the community and beyond lost a beloved friend May 12, because Novey Wiley Sr. never met a stranger.

Living almost his entire life in Farmville, the longtime preacher and minister of music on the radio died at the age of 75.

Among those he left behind was his wife of 56 years, Geraldine Wiley.

“He loved the Lord, and he loved the people in the community,” she said. “He was a friend to everyone that met him.”

Wiley Sr.

Novey and Geraldine Wiley have 10 children, including six sons and four daughters, leading to 23 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

His eldest child, Novey Wiley Jr., described him as an amazing man.

“His work here was done, but he was a true man of God,” Novey Jr. said.

Geraldine Wiley noted her husband was born and raised in Farmville.

He got an early start in gospel music, singing as a member of the Royal Lights Juniors.

“When they closed the schools in Prince Edward, he went to Dayton, Ohio, to school,” Geraldine said.

That was in 1959.

“And he was so homesick, he returned home,” she said.

He left again, multiple times, for work purposes. First, he moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and worked as a short order cook. He also moved to New York and to Jersey City, New Jersey, with his brother.

He returned home during those travels when his mother died.

“His father died two months after his mother passed,” Geraldine said.

Ultimately, Novey Sr. could not stay away from Farmville.

“He still had a love for his town, so then he returned home,” Geraldine said.

He came back to town for good in 1963.

Geraldine said she met Novey Sr. when she was 15 years old, and he was visiting home from Dayton.

“His Uncle Leroy introduced me to him at my mother and father’s business,” she said with a laugh. “And when I first met him, I shooed him off because I thought he was trying to be smart.”

She said her brother helped bring her around.

“My brother came and told me that (Novey) liked me,” she said.

She reflected on the qualities that helped define who he was and caused her to fall in love and marry him.

“He was very protective of me, and he just showed me how much he cared for me and just was a gentleman,” she said, noting he was really likeable, very friendly and very talkative, but also a good listener. “He sang, in our family we sang, and we had so much in common.”

They were married March 28, 1964.

Tracking Novey Sr.’s music career, Geraldine noted he followed up his time with the Royal Lights Juniors by becoming a member of the Sensational Gospel Singers in Farmville, a group that is now known as the Royal Supremes Gospel Singers.

“Then from there, we went to church in Richmond at St. Mark Church of God in Christ where he sang with a group called the Eveready Gospel Singers,” she said.

These singers were recording artists, and Geraldine said Novey Sr. was a leader and vocalist on two of their records.

In describing her husband’s impact on the area, Geraldine first highlighted his ministry as the pastor of Spirit of Life Church of God in Christ at 308 S. Virginia St. in Farmville. He served in that role for 28 years, imparting wisdom in his sermons, sometimes through humor.

He also had a wide-reaching ministry over the radio, playing gospel songs. His radio career began at WPAK, where he worked for about 10 years. Then he worked for 31 years at WFLO.

“And he loved his work,” Geraldine said. “He loved it. He loved reaching out to the public.”

Novey Jr. noted his father worked hard at a variety of jobs over the years to provide for his family. He worked at Carter’s Flower Shop, he worked at the Five County Fair, he sold antiques and he installed doorbells. While he was pastor, he also worked at First National Bank, where he was employed for about 25 years, he did his radio work, and he owned a lot of property and was a landlord.

Novey Sr. did not have the opportunity to go to college himself, but he impressed upon his children the importance of education and helped give many of them that opportunity. His emphasis on the value of working hard for good grades came early.

“I’ll never forget,” Novey Jr. said. “I think I was in first grade, and he would go through the alphabet or whatever, and if I got a C on my test, he would say, ‘OK, C is for cool, D is for dumb, F is for failure.’ He said, ‘B is beautiful, but A (is) awesome.’” Novey Jr. said all 10 of his father’s children are doing very well in life. Speaking for himself, Novey Jr. noted he graduated from Longwood University and also attended George Washington University. He lives in the Washington, D.C., area and works for the U.S. Department of Defense.

He said his siblings include a recording artist and entrepreneurs, like his brother David Wiley, who owns Strutz, a men’s clothing store on North Main Street in Farmville. David has said in the past that his father always dreamed of owning a men’s store.

Novey Jr. said his and his siblings’ success is all because of their father and the legacy that he left for them. And that legacy was primarily a spiritual one.

“The main thing is he loved God, and he told us to always love God and to love people,” Novey Jr. said.

Novey Jr. described his father as his best friend. They enjoyed activities like golf and pool, both of which Novey Sr. excelled at, and much wisdom was passed from father to son.

“I talked to him every day,” Novey Jr. said. “Everything that I do, I’ll incorporate him in my decision-making and (ask), ‘What would he do?’ And if that’s something I didn’t understand, I would call him. He would give me the wisdom and tell me how I should go about certain things.”

Novey Sr.’s example started in the home and was consistent outside it as well. He was a good neighbor, a pillar of the community and impacted people at the local, state, national and international levels through his ministry.

Farmville Ward D Councilman Donald L. Hunter described Novey Sr. as the heart of the community.

“He was a people person,” Hunter said. “He lives next door to me, so by living next door to me, if I needed anything, I knew I could go to him.”

But Hunter noted Novey Sr. was that way with everybody in the community.

“There was no one he did not like or did not help,” Hunter said. “He would turn over things to help people, and he was just a very spiritual, good, heartfelt person, and he’s just the type of person that he’s going to be missed a lot by a whole lot of people.”

Novey Jr. said the social distancing requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic make it difficult to have a full-scale memorial service now, but one may be held later on after the pandemic has subsided.

“I was telling Mrs. Wiley the other day,” Hunter said, “I said if it was under normal circumstances, there’s no building in Prince Edward County that probably could hold his service — that’s how well-liked he was, throughout not only Prince Edward County but throughout the world.”