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Saturday, January 20, 2024
Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)
Gordon Evans Flesher, a faithful Christian, devoted family man and skillful pipe organist and choral director, died Wednesday at age 96 in South Boston, Virginia.
A native of Trenton, Missouri, Gordon served as music director at numerous churches in Kentucky, the Carolinas and Virginia in a career spanning more than six decades. He continued playing the organ until his mid-80s, when failing eyesight left him unable to continue.
His perfectionism and passion for the works of master composers, particularly Johann Sebastian Bach, were evident in his performances and shared with generations of students. Vocal and handbell choirs of all ages thrived under his exacting but personable leadership.
As a musician, patriotic citizen and gentleman, he embodied the values of honor, integrity, inner strength and quiet dignity forged in hardships of the Great Depression and World War II.
Gordon was born July 17, 1927, to Hugh C. Flesher, a coal distributor, and Lela Foland Flesher. As a boy, he delivered Western Union telegraphs on his bicycle and helped raise vegetables in the family’s small garden. He began piano and organ lessons at First Baptist Church of Trenton and played for services before graduating from high school.
At age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Spared from combat by the war’s abrupt end in 1945, he served with the occupation force as a chaplain’s assistant in Sasebo, Japan.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in music at Central Methodist College in Fayette, Missouri, and a master’s degree in sacred music at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He later attended organ academies at Salem College in North Carolina and the North Carolina School of the Arts.
One day on the seminary campus, his ears perked up at the distant strains of an organ. Following the sound, he was instantly smitten with the student at the console: Miriam Hammett, a recent arrival from Gaffney, South Carolina. They were engaged after a brief courtship and married in 1952.
Miriam would follow her own musical path, teaching piano for 30 years, leading church choirs and singing. She died in 2022.
Gordon began his career as an instructor of organ and piano at the seminary and as minister of music at Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Louisville.
He held similar positions at First Baptist Church of Hartsville, South Carolina; West End Baptist Church of Petersburg, Virginia; First Baptist Church and First Christian Church of Goldsboro, North Carolina; Bessemer United Methodist Church and First Christian Church of Greensboro, North Carolina; West End Christian Church of Danville, Virginia; and St. John’s and Trinity Episcopal Churches of South Boston.
He was a faculty member and judge at music camps in several states.
Unassuming and straightforward, Gordon enjoyed simple pleasures: yearly summer visits to his boyhood home in Missouri; rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals; watching Sherlock Holmes movies featuring actor Basil Rathbone, whom Gordon once met in California; indulging his interest in astronomy by gazing at night skies; and reading works of classic authors such as Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, and Agatha Christie’s mysteries.
But even more than such diversions or his beloved music, Gordon’s greatest devotion was to God and family.
A perfect marriage may not exist, but his and Miriam’s came close. Steadfastly loyal to each other, they provided a loving and secure home for their three children, all of whom survive: Barbara Crowder (Gene) of High Point, North Carolina; John Flesher (Sharon) of Traverse City, Michigan; and Cara Conner (David) of South Boston.
Gordon’s faith remained strong through life’s peaks and valleys, including his wife’s lengthy illness and death and his own recent health struggles, particularly the glaucoma that marred his vision. Unable to read the Bible, he quoted passages from memory each day and went to sleep at night reciting from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and lengthy lists of family and friends. If you knew him, he prayed for you.
In addition to his children, Gordon is survived by his grandchildren, Robert Conner (Lauren Wilmouth) and Benjamin Conner (Savanna) of Halifax County, Virginia; Sarah Ferrell (Paul) and Christopher Crowder (Emily Ingram), of High Point, North Carolina; Dylan Flesher (Miya Kakuda), of Chicago; Leah Flesher of Traverse City, Michigan; and great-grandchildren Alex Conner, Charlie Conner and Leddie Conner of Halifax County.
Instead of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the Halifax County Rescue Squad, 700 Hamilton Boulevard, South Boston Virginia; and Trinity Episcopal Church, 515 Yancey Street, South Boston, Virginia, 24592.
A funeral service will be held on Saturday, January 20, 2024 at 11:00 A.M. at Trinity Episcopal Church with The Very Reverend Susan Grimm officiating.
A reception will be held in the church fellowship hall immediately following the service.
Powell Funeral Home of South Boston is handling arrangements.