In Memoriam

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James L. Queen
February 10, 1941-October 17, 2022
Member of San Angelo MTA

Queen was born to Lowell W. and Mildred C. Queen February 10, 1941, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  After graduating from Abilene High School in Abilene, Texas, he entered Baylor University and graduated with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. He taught choral music and music theory in several schools in Waco, 1965-1975.  While teaching in Waco he completed a Master’s degree in Music at Baylor.  He was active in the Texas Music Educators Association and held numerous regional offices and membership on the state Board of Directors. 

Queen was also a church musician-organist for the First United Methodist Church, then Choirmaster and Organist for St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, and later associate organist at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, all of Waco.  

He was a member of the Waco Jaycees and was named one of the Outstanding Young Men of Waco in 1971.  He was a member of the Waco Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and held several offices including Dean of the Chapter. He earned the Choirmaster Certificate of the AGO [Ch.M.], a national certification.  

From 1975-1980 he was Director of the secondary choral music program for the Lufkin Schools.  He choirs were awarded numerous sweepstakes in both UIL and invitational contests.  He brought members of the Shreveport, LA, symphony orchestra to perform Handel’s Messiah, with his choirs.  

During the five years in Lufkin, he was Choirmaster and Organist at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Lufkin and later at Christ Episcopal in Nacogdoches, Texas.  He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Lufkin Community Concert Association.  

In 1980 he moved to Iowa City, Iowa, for doctoral study at the University of Iowa.  He was awarded a teaching fellowship to teach undergraduate music education and conducting.  He became Director of Music for the historic First Presbyterian Church of Iowa City, and his church choir and orchestra treated the city to numerous performances of choral/orchestral works.  

He returned to his childhood home of San Angelo in 1985 to accept a position on the music faculty of Angelo State University.  He was also appointed Director of the San Angelo Symphony Chorale and Choirmaster for the First Christian Church, a position he held until his death.  After leaving Angelo State in 1987, he continued to work on his unfinished dissertation and taught privately.  

In 1991 Queen completed his dissertation and was awarded the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral music literature and conducting.  He founded and conducted the San Angelo Chamber Singers, which performed on the San Angelo Museum of Fine Art’s Chamber Music Series.  He became an active member of the San Angelo Music Teachers Association holding several offices including president of the Association.  He was a member of the Artistic Advisory Committee of the San Angelo Symphony and was a member of the Advisory Board of the Cultural Affairs Council.

He was preceded in death by his father, Lowell; mother, Mildred; and sister, Joy Carolyn Queen Russell.  He is survived by his two sons, Collen and Geoffrey, and multiple grandchildren.

James was a good friend and neighbor.  He cared greatly about his community, his students, and their families.  His musicianship, humor, and kindness live on in the generations of students who learned from him; but also in the people who were lucky enough to have spent time in good conversation with James.   

 

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Mildred (Millie) Halbert
January 7, 1937-May 11, 2022
Member of Bay Area MTA

Noted music teacher Mildred Talkington Halbert died on May 11, 2022 in Houston of natural causes. She was eighty-five.

Mildred was the eldest of four children born to Estella McCarty Talkington and Clement H. Talkington in Jacksonville, Texas. When her younger sister Elizabeth, known as Ann, was sick as a child, Mildred helped their mother care for all the younger siblings, forming deep and loving relationships that lasted through their lifetimes.

Mildred attended East Texas Baptist University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music in 1958. While in college, the tall and striking Mildred worked as a fashion model but her life’s calling was undoubtedly music.

Upon graduation, Mildred moved to Galveston County to teach music in the La Marque School District. It was there that she met her husband Robert Henry Halbert. They married in 1960 and soon started a family. After becoming a mother to daughter Allison — and, later, to son Randall – Mildred began teaching piano in a private studio in her home, which she continued to do for more than fifty years.

Mildred taught thousands of students, of all ages. She formed deep bonds with her pupils, many of whom she took under her wing and considered her “children.” She ensured her students had two lessons a week, one at the piano and the other in music theory. She also offered her students “piano camp” to help them further build upon their skills during the summer. As a teacher, she was tough but inspiring and, as a result, many of her students won awards, both at the state and national levels. And, many went on to pursue careers in music at such prestigious institutions as Julliard. Mildred herself travelled to New York City to do graduate work at Teachers College at Columbia University.

Mildred was a member of the Texas State Music Teachers Association, a member and past president of Bay Area Music Teachers Association, as well as a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Music Honor Society.

Mildred was a gifted pianist herself. She could play anything on the piano, with hundreds of songs committed to memory. She was the longtime pianist at First Baptist Church in La Marque and, several times, performed as a guest with the Houston Symphony.

Mildred was a strong, independent and youthful spirit. She was known to be brutally honest (except with regards to her age). She was a force of nature with boundless energy and she dedicated most of that energy to others. When her husband was struggling with multiple sclerosis, Mildred became a caretaker in addition to her role as mother, grandmother and teacher. Taking it all in stride, Mildred still found time to maintain close and meaningful relationships with friends and extended family.

Mildred lavished her loved ones with affection, stories and music. She told vivid, inspiring tales about her childhood and enjoyed exploring her father’s Cherokee lineage. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her but her legacy lives on in so many people and so many ways.

She is proceeded in death by her husband, her parents and her beloved brother, Dr. C.M. ”Mack” Talkington. She is survived by Randall Halbert and his wife, Michelle Halbert, of Spring; Allison Johnson and her husband, Jay Johnson, of Kyle, Texas; sister Elizabeth “Ann” Ramazetti and her husband, Gene Ramazetti, of Spring, Texas; and sister Sue Talkington of Dallas. Grandchildren Stephanie Soileau and her husband, Stephan Soileau, of Concord, California; Matthew Mason of Houston; and Samuel Mason of Fort Worth. Step-granddaughter Lauren Mullins and her husband, MacKenzie Mullins, of Conroe, Texas. And her niece and five nephews Amy Talkington of Los Angeles, Carty Talkington of Los Angeles, David Ramazetti of St. George, Utah; and Steve Willmon, Jon Willmon and Jason Willmon of Benton, Arkansas. And sister-in-law Martha Halbert Willmon, also of Benton.

In addition to her loving family, Mildred leaves behind scores of past students who were wholly changed by her dedicated and passionate teaching.

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Geraldine Sharpley
January 23, 1929-April 18, 2022
Member of Houston MTA and Pearland MTA

Geraldine Sharpley, age 93, passed away in the comfort and solace of her home, family, and caretakers in Houston, Texas on April 18th, 2022.

She was an accomplished musician with a distinguished career that spanned over 70 years. Obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from the Southern College of Fine Arts in 1951, she was an outstanding piano teacher, organist pianist, accompanist, and an active member of numerous musical organizations. Geraldine was an active performing member of the Tuesday Musical Club between 1972 and 2013 and a church musician between 1955 and 2004. She was also a terrific improviser. The Texas Music Teachers Association honored her as a 2015 TMTA Teaching Fellow Recipient. She did much charity work, especially through her music.

Born as Norma Geraldine Knighton on January 3rd, 1929 in Houston. Her parents were John and Nancy Knighton. She married James Wesley Sharpley in 1953 at First Christian Church of Houston, where they spent many years in service. James (also known as Jim) preceded her in death in 2019. They had three children, John who resides in Singapore, Nancy and her husband Gary Hutchinson, and Janet who live in Houston. Geraldine is also survived by five grandchildren and their spouses – Angela (Paul Perret), Stephanie (Ross Brooks), Heather (Justin Greiner), Rachel (Bobby King), and Sarah (Aaron Flaherty). A niece - Betty McCall and her partner Ed Mollitor, a nephew - James Bailey, a cousin - Sedonia, ten great grandchildren, Paul and Camille Perret, Owen and Evan Brooks, Camden, Levi, and Jaxson Greiner, Emersyn and Aubrey James King, Michael James Flaherty. Caretakers - Barbara Laurents, Coni West, Tracey Chamblin, Tiffany Evans, Sarah Fusig and Sarah Flaherty, three dogs - Molly, Gracie, and Blackie, plus countless friends, colleagues and former students. 

Geraldine, a member of First Christian Church of Pasadena, supported by her abiding Christian faith, embodied unconditional love. Her dedication to family, church, students, friends and to anyone in need was legendary. She worked tirelessly and selflessly in the service of others.

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Doris Barker
March 4, 1927-April 15, 2022
Member of Garland MTA

Doris Barker, age 95 of Garland, joined our Lord Jesus Christ on April 15, 2022.  A native of Crowder, Mississippi, Doris moved to Garland with her husband, James M. Barker, who preceded her in death.

Doris, a self-taught pianist, taught generations of young people and adults throughout her career as a music teacher and was the founder of the Garland Music Teacher’s Association.  Music and God were her life.  A strong Christian woman, Doris was an organist at the First Presbyterian Church of Garland for many years.  Married for over 50 years, Doris is survived by one daughter, Phyllis Prewitt, and one son, Terry L. Barker and wife Becky.  She has three grandchildren, Chris Prewitt, Janessa Prewitt and Terry Allen Barker, as well as four great-grandchildren, Jace Lung, Brenden Barker, Jenna Barker, and Madison Barker. 

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Mildred Bennight
August 24, 1924-January 22, 2022
Member of Corpus Christi MTA and Forum MTA

Mildred Smith Bennight was the only child of Irvin Maurice Smith and Elizabeth Mae Donaho Smith. She grew up in Floresville, Poth, and Edcouch, Texas, where her father worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. She was salutatorian of her high school class and studied music at Edinburgh Junior College and the University of Texas.

By late 1942, the railroad had reassigned her father to Ingleside, Texas. Visiting her parents for Christmas, she was reading a book in the depot while her father worked. A Marine officer came to send a telegram and took an interest. She and Kenneth Lamar Bennight, Sr., were married October 1, 1943.

A devoted Christian, she and Kenneth were charter members of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi.

She began teaching piano in 1941 and continued until three weeks before her death. Her greatest joy was teaching her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She served as chair or in other roles for both local and state music teacher organizations. She taught over 74 years and was honored by the Music Teachers National Association.

She loved the game of bridge. She researched and wrote three comprehensive genealogy books. A proud 5th generation Texan, Mildred was a long-standing member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Maurice and Elizabeth Smith and her husband, Kenneth Bennight, Sr. She is survived by her three children: Kenneth Bennight, Jr., and wife Susan; Craig Bennight and wife Johanna; Karen Wallace and husband Joe; as well as by eight grandchildren: Elizabeth Reed and husband Chris; Laura Bennight, Christopher Bennight, Andrea Ervin and husband and Dave, Erika Anderson and husband Josh; Joe Wallace III and wife Eboni; Caroline Wilson and husband Jon; and Courtney Wallace. She had fifteen great-grandchildren.

The family thanks Sugar Land UMC and her dedicated caregivers Temmie, Rita, and Tammy.

Ruth Ann Griffin
February 27, 1940-January 4, 2022
Member of Midland MTA

 After a short battle with cancer, Ruth Ann Averitt Griffin, 81 years old of Midland, TX went home to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, in Dallas, TX with Laura, her daughter, by her side. She was born February 27, 1940 in Terrell, TX to Tina Ruth Young Averitt and James Ted Averitt Sr. She graduated from Kaufman High School and went to earn her Bachelor of Arts from University Of North Texas, in Denton, TX. Ruth Ann majored in Music, and minored in English. She married Horace Roland Griffin in Kaufman, TX in 1967 after being introduced to him on the patio of Lee High School at a Teacher Convocation. She spent 59 years in education in teaching voice, piano, theory and English in several avenues. She began teaching Music Therapy in the Summers when she was in college at the Terrell State Hospital from 1958-1961. After graduating from University Of North Texas in 1962, Ruth Ann was the Robert E Lee High School Choir Director from 1962-1969, and produced the first UIL sweepstake choirs and even made a vinyl record of those choirs for the new school. She also helped create the Rebelee Court with a small group of teachers as well as creating the school spirit by helping write the school song for the new high school. She started teaching private lessons after daughter was born. In 1985, started teaching also at Midland College as well as continuing to teach private lessons in theory, voice and piano. She loved to teach and help others reach their God given potential. Ruth Ann's professional affiliations and service organizations including holding several offices through her lifetime: Texas Music Teachers State Board-Texas Music Teacher Educational Foundation; Texas Music Teachers Association; Midland Music Teachers Association; Texas Music Teachers Association Convention in Austin, Local President's Panelist , State Teacher Nominations, Election Chairman, State Teacher Recognition Awards Chairman; Music Teachers National Association Certification; Metropolitan Opera Guild; National Guild of Piano Teachers; Midland Music Teachers Association-Student Affiliate Chairman; Texas Music Teachers Association-State Student Affiliate Vocal Chairman; Adjudicator-TMEA UIL All State Choir Auditions, Mu Phi Epsilon Professional Society, and Delta Gamma Fraternity. Ruth Ann is survived by her children: Daughter, Laura Lynn Griffin, Dallas, TX; Son, Rev. Dr. Howard Griffin of Amarillo, TX; Daughter-In-Law, Sarah Griffin, Grandchildren, Hannah, Elizabeth, and John. She is preceded in death by her parents, and 2 Brothers, Ted Averitt JR, and Robert Averitt. Ruth Ann spent most of her life trying to help others as a parent, teacher, friend, counselor, and truly lived each day to the fullest. Throughout her life, Ruth Ann exhibited the fruits of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

PATRICIA A. MONTALBO obituary, 1947-2021, Lubbock, TX

Patricia Montalbo
January 6, 1947-November 15, 2021
Member of Plano MTA

Patricia Ann Montalbo left this life to be with her Lord on November 15th, 2021. Patricia ("Pat") was born on January 6th, 1947, in Lubbock, Texas, to Fred Henry (a farmer) and Glena Ray (a homemaker) Turner. Growing up in Brownfield, Texas, she was baptized at the First Baptist Church, which she attended with her parents, sister Janey, and brother James. Pat began piano lessons at age 6 and later studied the organ and clarinet, as well. She played clarinet with the Brownfield High School band (winning state-wide and national honors), and she enjoyed working on the school paper and yearbook.

Pat attended Texas Tech University, UT Austin, and UT Permian Basin – majoring in music education and pursuing extensive postgraduate work in music performance and musicology. She began teaching piano and other musical instruments at age 19. Over the decades that followed, Pat shared her gifts of music and teaching and hospitality with hundreds of students (from toddlers to adults) while living in Odessa, Amarillo, and for the past 26 years in Plano, TX.

In addition to teaching, Pat played the organ for many churches – starting as a teenager in Brownfield, and then in Odessa, Amarillo, and DFW. As much as she excelled in piano, the organ was her favorite instrument. She joyfully ministered through both playing pipe organs and directing adult and children's choirs.

Pat also delighted in playing harpsichord and recorder with baroque music performance ensembles, including the Permian Consort in Odessa and Marilla Musica in Amarillo; and she served as a participant and leader in the music teacher associations of Odessa, Amarillo, Plano, Frisco, and the state of Texas. Antiques and art were also a long-time passion of Pat's; and, for several years, she operated an antique booth in Plano.

Above all these endeavors, Pat was a devoted, loving, and cheerful wife to Gene and mother to Joanna – blessing them and her many beloved friends and family through her generous and caring nature, and her dry wit which brought laughter even in her final days of battling Parkinson's.

Pat is preceded in death by her parents and her brother James. She is survived by: Gene Montalbo of Plano; Joanna (Gaasch) Smith and her husband Brooks of Dallas; Janey (Turner) Bartley and her husband Thomas of Hemet, CA; nieces Deborah and Kathy; nephews Tommy and Mike; five grandnieces and one grandnephew; and two great-grandnieces and two great-grandnephews.

Lydia Rodriguez
August 18, 1979-August 16, 2021
Member of Pearland MTA

Lydia Fay Rodriguez, 41, of Texas City passed away in the early morning of August 16. She was born in Eugene, Oregon; one of the youngest daughters belonging to Morris A., Jr. and Mary Nell (Land) Mason. She married Lawrence “Law” Rodriguez in March, 2000 and he preceded her in death August 2nd of this year.

Lydia was a 1998 graduate of Clear Creek High School. As a teenager, Lydia’s interest in music grew as she took up Piano lessons. Lydia worked at a local Carquest shortly after graduating high school where she first met Law. They came together over common interests such as their love for music and the two were married. Lydia and Lawrence also opened and operated L&L Music Studio, where they shared their talents and taught their students lessons in piano and guitar. Her flair for teaching inspired many of her piano students and her children. Lydia dedicated her life to her family, especially her children—spending time with them was her favorite pastime. Lydia also served alongside her husband, Law, as a Children’s Minister at Texas Avenue Community Church. 

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