RIP Gail Walton

Receive sad news this morning. My teacher, Craig Cramer, has been watching his wife Gail Walton struggle with a debilitating bone marrow disease (a myelodysplastic syndrome). After a long struggle, she died yesterday. Craig and Gail were both music teachers at Notre Dame U. They both were immeasurably helpful to me when I was there. Since graduating in ’87 I have had several contacts with Craig. Recently I purchased his old copy of the complete Scarlatti keyboard sonatas. They sit proudly on my piano.

My organ prof, Craig Cramer, at Notre Dame

The last time I saw Craig, Eileen and I just happened to run into him in the international Airport in Newark (not Detroit, thank you, Eileen for this correction) last May. Craig was on his way to Germany and Eileen and I were on our way to England. It was a pleasant coincidence and we had a nice chat. Gail would be diagnosed in the following July, but Craig didn’t begin sharing their struggle via email until October of last year.

He emailed updates to those of us who knew them on Gail’s brave struggle. The emails became more and more desperate and sad. Watching someone you love die is a very difficult and painful thing. I recently did this with my own father. Even so, I can’t imagine what Craig and Gail and their family have been through.

This is the third fine musician I have known to die within the last week.

Church musician composer Richard Proulx who died last week

Yesterday I managed to find an obituary for Richard Proulx in the Chicago Tribune. [link] and a press release from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) about the recent death of Richard Hillert.

Dr. Richard W. Hillert, 1923-2010.  Photo: Concordia University Chicago
Richard Hillert who recently died. Click on the pic for a link to his obit.

I have struggled with church music as a field due to my own questions about it can play out in the honestly in the lives of communities. Despite that, these people were all people who gave of themselves to music and specifically church music. Gail was an incredible performer. As is Craig. Hillert and Proulx were both composers whose craft was one that I admired  a great deal. Hillert even gave me some compositional advice when a mutual acquaintance dragged me to his office for some shop talk.

I continue to believe that being alive is its own goal and reward. Life is a gift we are mysteriously given. These people who have died recently all had full lives.  I knew Proulx the least, but of the other two I could reasonably say they lived and loved and made wonderful music. Not bad, really.

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