52 Ancestors – Week 9: Gone Too Soon

Unfortunately, the subject for this post is an easy one…Ben Stabley, my dad. He passed over a decade ago and sometimes it seems like yesterday. He was a great dad and loved his job as a chemist. But the thing that really set him apart was his music.

My mom, who is thankfully still with me, always said his music would be one of the things she missed most. Growing up both my parents were piano teachers, sometimes teaching at the same time. Mom would be in the living room on the Yamaha baby grand and dad would be in his study on an upright. As a kid, you got used to all that music pretty quickly.

He volunteered his time for 17 years to the Lion’s Club in Chester, Virginia for their annual fundraising variety show and for his church when they put on shows to raise money for a new organ. Here is a snippet of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” the last show he ever played in public in the late 1990s:

He requested this video be played at his funeral. As you can imagine there wasn’t a dry eye in the church.

Dad started playing at the age of seven and became very good quickly. He was asked to play for just about every event in middle and high school. He even played for his own baccalaureate services for high school graduation in June 1950.

When he went to Maryville College he was the go-to piano player for events there, too. Here he is in a town production called “Barn Warming” in 1957:1

picture from Maryville college yearbook of dad at the piano

Dad always found a way to share his gift. He started his own radio show in college, playing weekly on WGAP in Maryville, Tennessee. 2

newspaper clipping from the 1950s Ben Stabley has radio program.

He also played for The Dixie Knights Gospel Quartet out of Knoxville, Tennessee in the mid-1950s. They were regulars on The Mull Singing Convention show.

picture of the Dixie Knights Gospel Quartet

Music was never missing from our lives as long as dad was around. He played for church when asked, had a gig playing dinner music at a steakhouse, and led many bands over the years, which included my brother, Ben, playing guitar. He also recorded floor music for my gymnastics routines…usually something classical.

My mom has tapes of some of the old Lion’s Club Shows and gets them out when she needs to hear him play. Ben Stabley and music were a joyful combination.

1 Maryville College, Chilhowean, 1956, p. 101.

2 Clipping from dad’s scrapbook, Unknown newspaper.

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