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George Younce, legend in Southern gospel, dies at 75

AKRON, Ohio (BP)–Legendary bass singer George Younce, a two-time inductee into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, died April 11 at Akron City Hospital in Ohio. He was 75.

A founding member of the Cathedrals Quartet, Younce was selected 14 times in Singing News fan surveys as their favorite Southern gospel bass singer.

Younce had suffered from failing kidneys and a heart condition in recent years, the Akron Beacon Journal reported, and had retired in 2002 after collapsing during a Bill Gaither Homecoming concert at Carnegie Hall.

His last public appearance, in September 2004, was as a surprise guest at a Bill Gaither event in Cleveland, the city’s Plain Dealer newspaper reported. He sang his signature song about heaven, “Suppertime,” and told the crowd, “Should the Master come tonight, I’m packed and ready to go.”

He also released a solo project in 2004, “Poetic Reflections,” and three albums in 1999.

A notice of Younce’s death on the Cathedrals webpage stated, “We are sad and life will never be the same but we are happy for George. He had been so very sick and in much pain for the last few months but now he is healthier and happier than he has ever been.”

Younce was preceded in death by his longtime Cathedrals partner, lead singer Glen Payne, who died in October 1999 during the group’s previously announced retirement year.

The Cathedrals began in 1964 with Rex Humbard Ministries, which broadcast nationally from the Cathedral of Tomorrow in Akron. The group went out on their own in 1969.

Younce’s interest in Southern gospel music was sparked at the age of 15 in his hometown of Patterson, N.C., as he began listening to radio programs featuring the Blue Ridge Quartet. The next year, he joined his first quartet.

He was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame both as a member of the Cathedrals and as a solo performer. He also is an inductee into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Bill Gaither, quoted in The Plain Dealer’s obituary of Younce, said, “He was one of those once-in-a-lifetime spirits. He always left the room lighter because of his presence and his spirit. Probably the greatest bass singer of all time, but that’s kind of incidental when you consider his impact on people’s lives. He was bigger than life.”

At his April 19 funeral attended by 1,500 people at the Akron Baptist Temple, Gaither’s wife, Gloria, said Younce “taught us to laugh until you cry, live until you’re free … and not to save face, but save relationships,” the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

The Gaither Vocal Band sang at the funeral, along with various other Southern gospel performers.

Arnold Fleagle, former pastor of the Akron-area Stow Alliance Fellowship, told the newspaper, “In my 30 years of ministry, I have never heard singing like that at a funeral.” Fleagle described Younce as “a global Christian. He sang all over the world.”

Younce and his wife, Clara, would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary April 27. Other survivors include his son, George, of Powder Springs, Ga., and three daughters, Gina Eroskey, Lisa Haase and Tara Aidala, all of Stow, Ohio; and three grandchildren.

The family has asked that memorials be made to Summit Renal Care in Akron.

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