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Hundreds gather for pastor/songwriter Gary McSpadden’s Celebration of Life

By Brenda Meadows

Staff Writer

Songs that Gary McSpadden had written, arranged, recorded or won awards for filtered throughout the Mansion Theatre on Saturday, July 25, while about 700 friends, family, fans and congregation members gathered for his Celebration of Life service. McSpadden, 77, passed away on April 15 from pancreatic cancer.

Gary McSpadden’s son, Shawn, and daugher, Michelle, speak at their father’s celebration of life. (Photo by Marshall Meadows.)

Mansion General Manager Larry Wilhite welcomed those in attendance.

“Some people are stars in the world’s eyes,” he said. “Gary was a star of celebrity status who never believed his own press.”

Shawn McSpadden hosted the celebration in honor of his father.

Although McSpadden had received many awards for his singing, song writing, producing and performances with Gospel music artists including The Statesmen Quartet, The Imperials, The Oak Ridge Boys, Bill and Gloria Gaither the Gaither Vocal Band and even Elvis, “he was a preacher, a true pastor, said Shawn. “He was a leader in spreading the Word of God through teaching, singing, writing and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In 2009 McSpadden, and his wife Carol began pastoring church services at The Americana Theatre. They founded Faith And Wisdom Church (FWC) in Hollister in 2010 then moved to Branson, 3950 Green Mountain Drive. Many of McSpadden’s services and messages can be found online at fwcbranson.com and on YouTube.

The Celebration of Life Memorial included special songs by the Faith and Wisdom Church Choir, directed by Doug Morris.

McSpadden’s five grandchildren Chase, Carley and Cole Smith, Taylor and Brooks McSpadden shared memories of their granddad.

Brooks and Taylor McSpadden spoke of how much fun they had with him.

”He loved fiercely,” Taylor said. “He taught me love is a verb an adjective and a noun. Because of my Pawpa, I know how to better love.”

Grandson Cole Smith said, “He is no longer on earth, but he is where he has always wanted to be.”

Gary McSpadden’s grandchildren shared special memories of their grandfather. (Photo by Marshall Meadows)

Church members Ken Rinsing and Jon Todd were among those that shared their experiences working alongside McSpadden.

Due to limited travel because of the COVID-19 virus Gospel recording artists Clay Crosse, Michael English, The Oak Ridge Boys, Larry Gatlin and Bill and Gloria Gaither sent messages to talk about their relationships with McSpadden through video presentations.

“I had gone to Memphis for an event,” said Crosse. “I gave Gary a demo tape. He was kind and encouraged me. He said he would listen to the tape and he did.”

McSpadden called Clay, left a message and asked to meet with him in Nashville.

“It was the beginning of a solid career and meeting Gary opened that door for me,” Crosse said. Crosse then sang a portion of ‘I Surrender All,’ the song that launched his career.

McSpadden grew up in West Texas and attended a church with the Gatlin family. Larry Gatlin sent a personal video message and spoke of having known McSpadden as a child. He also talked of the great friend McSpadden had been.

“I love that family,” he said, then sang the old gospel hymn, “Precious Memories” accapella.

The Oakridge Boys spoke of McSpadden’s love for people. They also spoke of his impact on their lives, then sang “Life’s Railway to Heaven,” a classic quartet number.

Michael English said he got to know McSpadden when he called and asked him to join the Gaither Vocal Band.

“After spending time with him, I felt like family,” English said. “I loved him so much. Rest in His arms Gary.”

Gary McSpadden, far right, when he sang with the original Gaither Vocal Band. (Special to Branson Globe)

His sister Cheryl “McSpadden” Kartsonakis spoke about how her brother had been her protector.

“He was strong, stable and committed,” she said. “He was a loving brother, Godly and with a great sense of humor and a teacher, for sure. I loved him so much. I can’t believe he is gone.”

McSpadden enjoyed golfing, fishing, listening to or singing music and writing songs. He loved the church, but his greatest joy was the love and passion he had for his family.

McSpadden’s Son-in law Ron Smith, married to their daughter Michelle, brought a golf club up to the podium to share some humorous, as well as touching, stories about his father-in-law. He worked as road manager for McSpadden and spoke of how he learned a great deal from him.

“Gary did so much for me,” he said “He taught me how to be my best. He taught me how to play golf because he wanted to beat me.”

Shawn McSpadden said Gloria Gaither asked him, “Can you describe your dad in one word?”

After much thought, he said “Consistent. He was consistent as a father, in faith, with the kids, with mom and in loving people.”

Gloria Gaither agreed with Shawn. The McSpaddens had traveled with, and lived along side the Gaithers for 10 years. “I don’t remember a cross word from either of them. They are the dearest, sweetest people.”

Bill went on to say, “I loved this man. I don’t know of anyone else who could come in and do what he did. Gary was an incredible person. Gary, you’ve finally seen the lights of home” (reference to the song ‘Because He Lives’).

The Celebration of Life concluded wth McSpadden’s brother-in-law Dino at the piano accompanied by the FWC Choir performing ‘We Shall Behold Him’ and ‘the Hallelujah Chorus.’

When setting the date and time for the Celebration, Carol McSpadden wasn’t sure if anyone would attend because of the virus and restrictions. But, it all worked out.

“It was a great send off, a great tribute to a man’s life well lived. But it doesn’t end,” said Carol McSpadden. “God wants to do something in this community through this church. I am excited about the future of this church. It gave Gary a welcome into heaven and good cross over. I am very pleased. I was thankful people could come and be with us for the gifts that God had given him. He used them for the Lord.”

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