'Popcorn' composer Bello dies

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 7 2007 12:56 a.m. MST

The woman whose light-hearted song about springtime blossoms is known to millions of Latter-day Saints has died at her home in Salt Lake City.

Georgia Wahlin Bello, 83, died Monday, Nov. 5, 2007, surrounded by her family after a three-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Mrs. Bello plucked out the melody and words for the LDS children's Primary song, "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree," using her daughter's one-octave, toy piano in the late 1950s. Her daughter, Joanne Foster, said the song was composed several years after her brother Kenneth — then 3 years old — pointed out the window of their home in Magna and exclaimed, "Look Mom, popcorn popping on the apricot tree."

"When we moved into the house on Foothill Drive, she was looking at all spring blossoms going on above 2100 East one day and was reminded of when my brother Ken saw the apricot tree in Magna. She later said that something came over her then. She didn't own a piano at the time, and I had a toy piano with only one octave on it," Foster said.

"She sat down and it just came to her. She said it was nothing but inspiration."

Mrs. Bello knew someone associated with the music department at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and submitted the song for consideration. She gave the legal rights and subsequent royalties from its publication and usage to the LDS Church, which copyrighted the song in 1989 and continues to publish it in the Primary Songbook.

When asked in later years whether she regretted not retaining the copyright, she would say, "I've been amply paid in smiles," Foster said, adding her mother received letters from people all over the world asking about the song.

Mrs. Bello was born Feb. 13, 1924, in Los Angeles and adopted by her parents, Erick Waldemar Wahlin and Mattie Ellen Argust Wahlin. She graduated from Cyprus High School and attended Marin Junior College, then Utah State University. She married Clair Louis Bello in the Logan LDS Temple on Nov. 16, 1942.

An accomplished pianist and vocalist, she headed the sheet music department of Summerhays Music in Murray for 30 years. She is survived by her husband; sons Kenneth, Lynn and David; daughter, Joanne; along with 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Services are scheduled Friday at noon at the Foothill 7th Ward, 2215 E. Roosevelt Ave. Friends may call on Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Russon Brothers Mortuary, 255 S. 200 East, or from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday at the church.

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