Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Honoring a Good Man

Today, I want to take a moment to honor my friend and former colleague, Ray Church. Ray served as a music instructor at NCSSM for 22 years and was my colleague here for the first 7 years of my tenure at NCSSM. Ray was a kind, gentle man. He was a fine oboist and musician. In the later years of his teaching career, he became very interested in jazz and jazz pedagogy. He was also a pioneer in distance education for music educators, teaching some of the first music-technology online courses in the country. He loved NCSSM and he loved the students at NCSSM. He made me feel welcome here and always acknowledged my contributions to the effort. He retired from NCSSM 3 years ago and was living in Hickory, caring for his elderly mother. He was a dedicated son and brother. Ray enjoyed tuning pianos, bee-keeping, and in recent years, really enjoyed tending to his mother's gardens and property. He recently told me that "he was really just a jazz-lovin' country boy at heart. Give me a tractor to ride on and I will be happy." That made me chuckle.

Ray stopped in to see me last Tuesday. We talked about the NCSSM Music Department, my family and his, life in Hickory, and many other topics. It was a light and enjoyable conversation. I wondered if it might be "goodbye."

Ray was an important part of my life for the past 10 years. He was my friend. I will miss him. Thanks, Ray, for caring for me and my family.

His obituary is below.

HICKORY -- Ray Edward Church, 61, of Hickory, passed away on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory.

Born July 14, 1949 in Catawba County, he was the son of Elenoir Huffman Church and the late George Thomas Church Sr.

In addition to his father, he was preceded in death by two brothers: George Thomas Church Jr. and Gary Gene Church.

Mr. Church had graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master of Music from the University of Miami.

He taught in Nash County schools, St. Stephens High School and 22 years at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. He also played the oboe for the Ft. Lauderdale Symphony and he was a Fulbright Scholar in Germany.

In addition to his mother, he is survived by two brothers: Larry Dean Church and wife, Karen of Hickory, Richard Lewis Church of Lincolnton; and two sisters: Brenda Church Baker and husband, Seth of Asheville, Pauline Church Troutman of Newton.

The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, February 11, 2011 in the chapel at Bass-Smith Funeral Home with the Rev. Scott Frady officiating.

Burial will follow at Oakwood Cemetery.

The family will receive friends an hour prior to the service from 1 to 2 p.m. at the funeral home.

Memorials may be made to the American Liver Foundation, 75 Maiden Ln., Suite 603, Hickory, NC 28603.

On-line condolences may be left for the family at

Bass-Smith Funeral Home is serving the family of Ray Edward Church.


  1. Sad to hear about this. Dr. Church was my jazz teacher a few years ago. I wish I could have said good-bye...

    -- Julianna Thomas (NCSSM 2005)

  2. Ray was my best friend through high school and into college at UNC-Chapel Hill. We lost touch for many years as we moved many miles apart, but had renewed our friendship over the past 4-5 years while my son was a student at UNCG. I was shocked to read of his death in the UNC alumni news. Ray was indeed a gentle man and a lover of all sorts of music. I wish he could have enjoyed retirement a bit longer.
    Don Moir (UNC, 1971)