Wanell Clayton O'Barr, born July 23, 1926, in St. Clair County, Alabama, died February 2, 2014, at the Good Samaritan Society-Denton Village after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was preceded in death by his mother, Carrie Adkins O'Barr; sister, Claudine Knight; and four brothers, Cooper, Coy, Palmer, Prentice, and Bill O'Barr.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 8, 2014, at 2:00 p.m. in the Chapel at Denton Bible Church, 2300 East University Drive, Denton, Texas 76209, followed by a time of visitation. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that remembrances be made to The Hospice of East Texas, 4111 University Blvd., Tyler, TX 75701 or Accolade Hospice Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 525, Yoakum, TX 77995.
Wanell graduated from St. Clair County High School in 1944. After high school he served two years in the United States Navy. He graduated from Howard College, Birmingham, Alabama, with a Bachelor's degree in music and received his Master's degree in music from Southwestern Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, Texas.
He began forty years of church music and education ministry at Eighty-Fifth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and continued his service at: Highland Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas; Tabernacle Baptist Church, Cartersville, Georgia; Ruhama Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama; Northminster Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia, and Pleasant Wood Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas.
Gifted with a beautiful tenor voice, Wanell was soloist in the Howard College A Cappella Choir, featured soloist at the Southern Baptist Convention, tenor soloist in the Messiah and Seven Last Words of Christ with Mineola Community Choir, and tenor soloist in the Dallas Baptist Association Choir's Messiah. He sang and recorded with J. T. Adams and The Men of Texas.
Wanell grew up singing in the church and under the influence of his grandfather who was a music teacher of sacred harp or shape note singing. As a young man, he sang in quartets and various ensembles and deepened his love for the power of sacred music. He was gifted with a unique ability for directing congregational singing and encouraging everyone to sing. When he was directing, his passion and enthusiasm were contagious.
Among his endearing legacies, Wanell will be remembered for his profound influence on the members of his youth choirs over the years. Many of those young people went on to hold leadership positions and serve in a wide range of musical careers. One of his greatest joys in retirement was reading letters from former students and choir members graciously recounting their memories of singing in his choirs and thanking him for his mentoring role in their career paths and life choices.
He is survived by his loving wife of fifty-seven years, Betty Stewart O'Barr of Denton, Texas, and a host of nieces, nephews, extended family, and friends who loved him and will forever cherish him.