Stephen Hill Passes Away; Funeral Arrangements Announced

ORIGINAL POST, SUNDAY, 10:04 P.M.: Several Southern Gospel performers, including Jeff & Sheri Easter, Karen Peck Gooch, and Shawn Degenhart (who performed with Hill in the Heritage Harmony Quartet), are reporting that soloist Stephen Hill passed away suddenly today after a heart attack. He was in Lumberton, North Carolina for a concert at Antioch Baptist Church (Wesley Pritchard’s home church) (UPDATE: Early reports that it was Pritchard’s home church appear to be incorrect.)

Hill was best known for his Gaither Homecoming appearances as a soloist. He was also on the Heritage Harmony Quartet’s debut recording, which we gave a five-star rating here.

UPDATE, 7 AM 8/6/12: The Gaither organization has officially confirmed Stephen Hill’s passing. He suffered a massive heart attack during soundcheck for yesterday evening’s concert. They added:

Stephen was a “gentle giant” with a kind, soft-spoken nature and a tenor voice as versatile as it was beautiful. He had a sincere heart for people and for sharing the hope of Christ with audiences throughout his career. He was dearly loved by his friends, family and the music community. 

Stephen is survived by his wife, Kathy, and their three children, Melody, Miriam, and Caleb.

UPDATE, 8:58 AM, 8/7/12: Funeral plans, via Woody Wright on Facebook:

I hope everyone will make plans to be with us on Monday August 13 at Grace Church of the Nazarene near Opryland in Nashville at 1 PM. Kathy, Melody, Miriam and Caleb appreciate your prayers as they deal with the shock and grief of this sudden, unexpected tragedy. They have asked for a great celebration of Stephen’s extraordinary life.

UPDATE, 9:25 PM, 8/7/12: Updated time for service: The funeral will be at 3:00 pm Monday, August 13; visitation will be (before) 1:00-3:00pm.

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Mark Trammell’s mother passes away

Mark Trammell posted on Facebook that his mother, Elizabeth Trammell, passed away at 1 AM Central Time:\

At 1 AM central time… Mom quietly and peacefully walked thru the gates of pearl….No more broken hip, no cancer, no arthritis, no heart problems. She made it…..because Jesus said that she would!!!!!!! Yay MOM!!

Please keep the Trammell family in your prayers.

UPDATE: Singing News posted funeral arrangements: “Huson Funeral Home in Sherwood, Arkansas, will be handling the arrangements for Ms. Trammell. The visitation will be Sunday, August 5, 2012 from 12 – 2 p.m., with the celebration of life service at 2 p.m.”

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Maude Aimee Humbard passes away

Lily Fern Weatherford posted on her Facebook page today that Maude Aimee Humbard has passed away. Maude was the wife of Rex Humbard, the televangelist at the Cathedral of Tomorrow who launched the Weatherfords’ career and formed the Cathedral Trio/Quartet.

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Jackie Wilburn passes away

Elaine & Jackie Wilburn

Elaine & Jackie Wilburn

Jackie Wilburn passed away this morning at age 74. The patriarch of the Wilburn clan was vacationing with his family in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Funeral arrangements will be handled by Sanderson Funeral Home in Carthage, Tennessee.

Jackie married Elaine Wilburn in May 1959. By the mid-1970s, he became an ordained preacher. They also started touring and singing with their three sons as The Wilburns. The group launched to national prominence in the late 1980s, retiring in 2004. Though they would have several hit songs, including “Outside the Gate,” “When Dust Shall Sing,” and “Resting Place,” their largest legacy is in the careers they launched. When their son Jonathan moved from The Wilburns to Gold City, the rest was history, and Gold City was on its way (back) to the top. 

But that was just the beginning. The list of prominent Wilburns alumni includes, in fact, most of their members: Tony Gore (Tony Gore & Majesty), Loren Harris (Perrys), Ricky Atkinson (songwriter / Ricky Atkinson & Compasson), Troy Peach (Steeles, First Love, Perrys), Michael Helwig (Dixie Echoes), and the list goes on. Rounding out that list are two members of the final (2004) Wilburns lineup, Gary Casto and Josh Singletary, who continue to perform together in their own group, Tribute Quartet.

Jackie Wilburn’s legacy continues today through his family: His son Jonathan and grandson Jordan Wilburn, the second and third generations of the Wilburn clan, recently launched the duo Wilburn & Wilburn, carrying the legacy forward.

Several weeks ago, in what may have been his final concert appearance, Jackie appeared with Elaine, Jonathan, Jordan, and Ricky Atkinson for a Wilburns Reunion concert. SGConcerts’ Diana Brantley was on the scene and posted several videos. Here’s an acappella song featuring Jackie, “The Old Story Will Never Grow Old”:

From the same evening, here are all five singing “Resting Place”:

Other videos from the night include Coming Out of the Wilderness, Let the First One Be Me, and Through it All.

For those new enough to the genre to not have grown up around Wilburns music, check out several more videos of the group in its prime: Coming Out of the Wilderness (1988, featuring a very young Jonathan Wilburn), When Dust Shall Sing (1992), Outside the Gate (1993).

As “When Dust Shall Sing” says:

Since Jesus died, the grave has lost its victory
And if you’re in Christ, death has lost its sting
You see, Christ conquered death, so He opened up the chorus
With voices raised, and shouts of praise, dust shall sing

When dust shall sing, on Resurrection morning… 

This morning brought death, not resurrection. Yet this morning, in the presence of the King, dust is singing.

UPDATE: Here are some comments from Jonathan Wilburn about his father’s last day.

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Janice Brashear passes away

Janice Brashear, mother / pianist for the Brashears, passed away on Monday, the 26th. (Hat tip, DW.) She is survived by her husband of 51 years, Jarrell Brashear, three children, seven grandchildren, and a great-grandson. She had been suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Funeral arrangements are listed here.

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Jessy Dixon passes away

Numerous national media sources are reporting that Jessy Dixon, long-time soloist and Gaither Homecoming fixture, passed away Monday morning. He was 73. He is survived by a brother and a sister.

His sister informed the national media that he had been ill, but declined to elaborate.

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Charlie Burke passes away

Charlie Burke passed away this morning in Winston-Salem North Carolina, after suffering a likely brain aneurysm last night.

For several decades, Burke was a behind-the-scenes member of the Southern Gospel industry, through owning the Singing Americans, owning Tape Corporation of America (with his son, Michael Burke), and as a co-owner and board member of the National Quartet Convention. Under his leadership, the Singing Americans brought singers like Danny Funderburk, Ivan Parker, Clayton Inman, Rick Strickland, and Michael English to the forefront of Southern Gospel music. He also helped launch the Whisnants, the Reggie Sadler Family, and the Dove Brothers.

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Howard Hayes passes away

Multiple sources have confirmed that Howard Hayes passed away today. He was fighting cancer and had recently been placed in hospice.

Howard was the patriarch and bass singer of the Hayes Family, anchoring their traditional, convention-style blends for about forty years.

Here is a video of the Hayes Family singing the old convention classics “Wonderful” and “My Heavy Burdens Have Rolled Away,” both featuring step-out bass lines from Howard.

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Harold Lane Passes Away

Long-time Speer Family lead singer Harold Lane passed away yesterday, at age 82.

He was born in 1929 in West Virginia and was an early member of the Gospel Harmony Boys, joining in the early 1950s. (He was also a high school band director at the time.) After several years with the Gospel Harmony Boys, he left to join the Homeland Harmony Quartet, but returned to the Gospel Harmony Boys after several months.

He joined the Speer Family in 1967 and stayed with them for more than twenty years. He was also a songwriter; his two best-remembered songs are “Touring That City” and “Standing on the Solid Rock.”

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Shannon Childress passes away; funeral arrangements

Former Hoppers / Childress Family pianist Shannon Childress passed away this afternoon after a multi-year battle with cancer. As we had noted in several recent updates, his health has been in a critical condition for a month or more, and he has been in hospice. Please keep his family in your prayers.

There will be a viewing at the Springhill Funeral Home in Nashville (5110 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216) on Thursday evening. There will also be a viewing in Madisonville, Kentucky on Friday, and a funeral there on Saturday.

UPDATE, 9:19 P.M.: In an email update: from Teresa Childress Lutz, she said:

I am grieving as I write this last update about my brother Shannon. His battle with cancer ended this afternoon about 2:30 with his family and friends gathered around. He seemed to struggle near the end with his breathing and so to help calm him, I decided to play some piano music for him. Since music has been such an important part of his life, our sister Carla suggested that the music might help ease his anxiousness. While he listened to “In Christ Alone,” “Sheltered in the Arms of God,” “Because He Lives,” “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be,” “I’ll Meet You in the Morning” and “What a Day That Will Be,” he seemed to be able to release his hold here and allow God to carry him safely home to Heaven. Let me tell you he fought a brave fight until the very end. … Shannon is resting easy now in the land where “Milk and Honey” flows.

As a postscript, she quoted Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

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