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In Memoriam: Remembering ten who who passed away in 2013

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2013 was a year of transition for some as they departed this life. There were many who impacted the field of gospel music in one manner or another. However, no one impacted the world with his life and passing as much as Nelson Mandela, a giant who tirelessly fought against anti-apartheid. His death touched the world of gospel music as well and gospel singer and Grammy winner Kirk Franklin sang "My Life Is In Your Hands" at Mandela's memorial in South Africa.

Here are 10 deaths that touched the gospel community, the D.C. area and the faith community at large.

1. Nelson Mandela. The elder statesman was a freedom fighter and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression. He was released from prison after 27 years and led his country out of decades of apartheid. As the first Black president of South Africa, Mandela's message was always one of reconciliation and not vengeance. News of his death impacted the entire world. He died Dec. 5 at age 95.

2. Patti Webster. After a battle with brain cancer, the CEO of the firm W&W Public Relations passed away. Webster was a longtime publicist who represented stars that included Halle Berry, Donald Lawrence, Usher, Dwight Howard and Steve Harvey. Her firm also represented several organizations including Harmony Records and Creflo Dollar Ministries. Webster died Sept. 13 at age 49.

3. Sheila Stewart. The popular radio personality had an extensive career in radio, TV and print media for more than twenty years and was known for her community involvement. She was the News & Community Affairs Director for Radio One-DC Stations (93.9) WKYS-FM; (Praise 104.1) WPRS-FM; (1450)-WOL-AM); 1340-(WYCB-AM) and (102.3) WMMJ-FM.l. Stewart died Oct 24 in Atlanta after a car accident at age 44.

4. Al Johnson. A Newport News native who lived in Maryland, Johnson made a name for himself in the world of soul music both as lead singer of The Unifics and as a producer and arranger. Johnson was a songwriter for The Whispers, and producer for Roberta Flack. Johnson was known in the gospel community for his vocals on Jeff Major's "Psalms 23" as well as other projects in and around the D.C. area. He died at age 65 on Oct. 26.

5. Donna Creer and Donald Creer. Donna Creer was an influential and beloved presence in the gospel music industry She was President of the Arkansas Gospel Announcers Guild and the Second Vice Chair of the Gospel Announcers Guild (GAG) of the Gospel Music Workshop Of America (GMWA). The Gospel industry veteran and her husband Donald died in a house fire in June. The couple died June 12 at age 57 and 51 respectively.

6. Cleotha Staples. The singer was a founding member of the pioneering folk-gospel group, The Staple Singers. Her velvety soprano was powerful and dynamic. She had gracefully battled Alzheimer’s disease for the last decade and passed away peacefully at her Chicago home February 21 at age 78.

7. Frances McClurkin/Donald McClurkin, Sr. Gospel great Donnie McClurkin lost both his parents this year. Throughout the tragic losses, McClurkin relied on his faith and received an outpouring of love and support from fans around the world. His mother Frances passed away January 18 and his father Donald passed away at age 79 on Nov. 13.

8. George Duke. The pioneering jazz keyboardist music career spanned more than 40 years, during which he collaborated with numerous eminent musicians, including Frank Zappa and Miles Davis.Many in the gospel industry were influenced by his sounds. Duke died following a battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia on Aug. 6 at age 67.

9. George Beverly Shae. The gospel singer with the booming baritone voice was a fixture for decades at Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades. He wrote “I’d Rather Have Jesus” in 1932, a song that has remained a favorite in many gospel settings. Shea died in Asheville, N.C. on April 16 after a brief illness at 104.

10. Paul Crouch. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the network Crouch founded with his wife, Jan is known as the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith channel. Crouch passed away Nov. 30 at age 79 due to heart problems.


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