Edgar Parke Billups

February 24, 1934 - November 11, 2009
Edgar Parke Billups

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Edgar P. Billups, 75, of Etowah, NC, died Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at the Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard.

He was the son of the late Mary Ruth Person Billups and Edgar Billups, a Methodist minister who served the church in Brevard when Edgar was a young boy. He was preceded in death by his son, E. Parke Billups.

He entered Syracuse University in 1952 and earned a Bachelor of Music degree. Awarded a Fulbright in 1957, he spent a year in Germany studying with the renowned blind organist and noted Bach interpreter, Helmut Walcha. He returned to Syracuse and earned a Masterís degree in organ in 1960. Billups also undertook choral studies with Sir David Willcocks and Robert Shaw and orchestral conducting with Elizabeth Green.

In the summer of 1969, he was appointed organist-choirmaster to All Saintís Church in Pontiac, MI, a position he held for five years. He then moved to a similar post at Christ Church in Grosse Pointe, MI, where he remained for a decade. In 1975, he was called to the Parish of Saint Paul in San Diego, CA, where he served until his retirement at the end of 2002.

From 1976 until his retirement, Billups served on the faculty of the University of California at San Diego as Lecturer in Organ; since 1958, he had also taught organ privately. He served as Dean of the Detroit Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and as President of the Association of Anglican Musicians, a national organization of musicians, clergy and laity within the Episcopal Church. In 1997, he was created a Cathedral Canon, perhaps the highest honor the church can bestow on a layman, and he served as Canon Precentor until his retirement.

Signal honors have included a Concurrent Resolution of Tribute from the Michigan State Legislature and Michigan Teacher of the Year. For a number of years, he was listed in the International Whoís Who in Music, and in 2002, the International Biographical Society of Cambridge, England affirmed him as one of the outstanding musicians of the Twentieth Century. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity.

He was a model train enthusiast and served on the Board of Directors of the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society. His book on the George Washington, a classic American train, is soon to be published.

He is survived by his loving wife, Janet Billups of Etowah and daughter, Brooke Redgrave of Baltimore, MD.

Edgar will always be known for his rapport with people and many have noted, ìHe never met a stranger.î

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

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  • November 20, 2009
    mary kedller says:
    Dear Jan and Brooke, I am so sad to hear of Edgar's death. I hope I am able to come to his service. Know that you are in my prayers. Mary Keller

  • November 25, 2009
    monte jahnke says:
    I have fond memories of and many thanks for the life of Edgar Billups. He hired me as a singer at Christ Church Grosse Pointe fresh out of college in 1968. This began an long and rewarding relationship with that parsih and its music program. Active duty during the Vietnam War only allowed me a year there with him but it was a great experience, full of his innate enthusiasm. After law school my wife and I returned to the parish where she became youth director and teacher over a 25 year period, I kept on singing and served as Senior Warden twice. It was my privilege to head the committee that hired the current organist and choirmaster,Sott Hanoian, a worthy successor to Edgar's worthy successor, Fred DeHaven. Blessings to Edgar's family and many thanks for his life of inspiration with us. A kind, and gentle man of good humor.

  • November 24, 2009
    Kendall and Aimee says:
    Because of the liturgical music at St. Paul's Cathedral, San Diego, CA, offered by Edgar Billups, organist and choirmaster, we chose St. Paul's as our spiritual home. Because of Edgar, we became more involved in this church, even joining the choir and the Music Society. Because of Edgar, we renewed our enjoyment of model trains. Because of Edgar, we laughed at puns and light-hearted jokes. Because of Edgar, our lives have been enriched. Thank you, Edgar.

  • November 24, 2009
    Paramedic John says:
    Rarely in life we have the honor to meet truly exceptional individuals. As a paramedic I have had the honor of meeting some extrordinary individuals. One of the most extrodinary was Mr Edgar Billups. We spent much time together and I sat speechless often listening him recount his many travels and experiences. I always took the opportinuty to attempt in a most elemental way to speak German with Mr Billups and he encouraged me to continuie my studies of German. His understanding of music was amazing. I will always cherish those few hours I was able to commune with him. God Bless the family

  • November 23, 2009
    Robert Vreeland says:
    Dear Jan: I am sorry to hear of Edgar's passing. I have fond memories of him as a wonderful organ teacher at St. Pauls Cathedral. We used to chat many hours after each lesson about music. May God bless his soul. Robert Vreeland