Monday, April 1st, 2013
Written by: Caroline Pratt
Hugh Gordon Stoker
(August 3, 1924)
(March 27, 2013)
The funeral service for Hugh Gordon Stoker, was held on Saturday, March 30th in Brentwood, which is a suburb of Nashville, TN at The Christ Presbyterian Church. I was fortunate to have attended the funeral service. Having never met Gordon in life; his passing still affected me as a Elvis fan, and I felt very compelled to honor him. To attend his funeral was the furthermost way to celebrate his life, and his career which was so highly admired, and respected.
The service began at 2pm, and a visitation was held one hour before the service, but I chose not to view the body of Mr. Stoker because a viewing should be for family and close friends only. Before taking my chosen seat in the back I signed the funeral registry book, and I left the sympathy card of condolences from my Elvis fan club - the Elvis Presley Fans of Nashville with a funeral associate, who guaranteed the Stoker family would receive our card. The service began with Mr. Stoker's very exquisite cherry wood casket being transferred into the chapel with a beautiful, and extensive casket spray of Red Roses gracing the top. The Stoker family walked dimly behind the casket, and then took their seats in the church pews. Mr. Stoker was certainly very loved, and the emotions on the faces of each family member articulated the volumes of their love for him. The Pastor, took his spot at the podium, and welcomed everyone to the funeral for Mr. Stoker. The service was at times cheerful, uplifting, and as to be expected: sad. I have attended a lot of funerals, and Gordon's funeral was one of the most cheerful services, and that is precisely what Gordon had desired due to his relationship with God and Jesus Christ. It was acknowledged by the Pastor that Gordon wanted his funeral to be a happy celebration of his life, and a worship service to God.
The Pastor who officiated the service had not known the Stoker family for long but he had spent time at the Church with them and at the Stoker home. The Pastor said Gordon was not fearful of death, and due to his faith he was excited about Heaven. A couple of times the Pastor reassured us of Mr. Stoker being "with Jesus Christ, and how happy he was looking down from Heaven where his family and friends celebrated his life." The service included the following songs by The Jordanaires: "No Tears in Heaven" duet with Tennessee Ernie Ford, and "This World Is Not My Home", and Elvis' song, "Known Only to Him. "
On behalf of the Stoker family, their second born Son Brent Stoker, delivered a candid upbeat tribute to his Daddy. Brent shared favorite stories about his Daddy, and he shared two of Daddy's favorite stories. If you did not already know; Gordon Stoker was a very comical man who was often smiling, and joking with everyone. Brent expressed how much his Daddy "loved to recount humorous stories to anyone who would listen." In the closing of Brent's tribute to his Daddy he ended with this quote: "Daddy had a great career but most influentially he was a wonderful Daddy." Before sitting down Brent also thanked his Mother Jean for "all the nourishment and love he and his siblings had received from her, and Daddy."
The Pastor closed the funeral service with the song "This World Is Not My Home", and with a prayer of gratitude, and benediction. Before the casket was carried out from the Chapel the Pastor reminded us "Gordon would spend Easter singing with the Angles", and to hear those words were sweet, and those words must have been very heart warming to the Stoker family.
After the service, Mr. Stoker's body was interred at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Nashville in their Cross Mausoleum located on the third floor. I did not go to Woodlawn for his interment as interments are usually reserved for only family members. I did visit Woodlawn's Mausoleum later that day to visit my family members who rest there, in honor of the Easter holiday. While at Woodlawn I did find Mr. Stoker's resting place, and the area is surrounded by at least 15 beautiful floral arrangements. Gordon is resting not very far from Country Music Legends, Tammy Wynette, and Jerry Reed. JD Sumner, of The Stamps Quartet who passed away in the year 1998 also rests on the third floor of Woodlawn's Mausoleum. I have included a photo below of the flowers which surrounded Mr. Stoker's place of rest.
There were people at the service who have an Elvis connection. Ray Walker, who is the Bass Singer for The Jordanaires, and DJ Fontana who is Elvis' original drummer were both there with their wife's. Elvis' Nurse Marian Cocke attended, and came all the way from Memphis. Patsy Andersen, whom formerly worked for Elvis Presley Enterprises, as the Fan Relations Director of 22 years was at the service. Betty Harper, who is a licensed artist through Elvis Presley Enterprises, and Elvis fan entertainer, Terry Mike Jeffrey also attended the service. If I have by mistake not mentioned an Elvis related public figure who may have attended the funeral, I am sorry as the people mentioned above were the only people I could clearly recognize from my seat. I did not have any conversations with the people mentioned above as it would have not been appropriate for the circumstance. Elvis Presley Enterprises, did not send a Representative to Gordon's funeral.
I have always appreciated, and enjoyed Gospel music by The Jordanaires, and Gordon was their Tenor Singer. Over the years of being an Elvis fan I had seen Gordon from a distance countless times at Elvis events, and I occasionally saw him at events regarding Country Music. I saw Mr. Stoker's final stage performance on August 17th, 2012 during Elvis Week 2012 where Gordon and Ray Walker both performed backup for Elvis Tribute Artist's, Cody Slaughter and Shawn Klush. During his last performance, Mr. Stoker was in a wheelchair, and you could tell he was giving everything he had to pour his heart out along side Ray, Cody, and Shawn. I imagine everyone who attended the concert grasped that Mr. Stoker's state of life was becoming fragile. The last time I saw Mr. Stoker alive was in October 2012 when The Country Music Hall of Fame honored Millie Kirkham as a Nashville Cat, and again Mr. Stoker was in his wheelchair with his wife Jean, by his side. After Millie Kirkham, had been honored that day in October 2012, there were people who approached Gordon, and other people with Elvis connections who were present. Initially I did wish to speak with Gordon but I chose not to. I've always been a person who possesses high respect for people, and in the state of health Mr. Stoker was in I just could not approach him. Observing a well known or "distinguished" person from a distance is sometimes the most wise choice.
It has frequently been expressed that Gordon was a true Gentleman and that is how I prefer to remember him.
Gordon Stoker will be greatly and royally missed. May Gordon rest in peace in the most glorious place of all. May God wrap his endearing arms around the Stoker family and may he help the family find comfort.
*This article and the collage photo of flowers is copyright (c) Caroline Pratt, all rights reserved. It may not be reproduced in any form without prior written consent.