James's Story

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James Maurice Gautsch Jr. was surrounded by his loved ones at his home in Fairfield when taken by angels to be with the Lord on April 13, 2017.

James Maurice Gautsch Jr. was born Nov. 26, 1964 in Huntsville, Ala., to James and Linda (Fahringer) Gautsch. He was baptized and confirmed into the Lutheran faith and remained a faithful servant to the Lord.

He was a 1983 graduate of Selinsgrove Area Junior-Senior High School, where he was a member of the band and chorus, as well as being selected for district and regional band and chorus throughout his high school years. He furthered his music education and his love of music by attending Susquehanna University and ultimately receiving his bachelor of music degree in 1990 from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J. While attending Susquehanna University, he studied pipe organ with Dr. Susan Hegberg and continued his study of church music and pipe organ with Dr. Mark Brombaugh and Eugene Roan at Westminster. He would continue his church music for the next 27 plus years, by serving as organist and choir director at various denominational churches in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including 10 years at Christ Lutheran Church in Milton, where he served as Director of Church Music, Organist and Choir Director, before finding his place at Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Baltimore, Md., where he has served for the past 13 years a Director of Church Music, Organist and Choirmaster.
While attending Westminster, he was a member of the highly esteemed Westminster Symphonic Choir for four years, under the direction of Joseph Flummerfelt. It was during this time he had the honor and privilege to sing with the choir in concert and operas at Lincoln Center with such notable artists as Frederica von Stade, Barbara Hendricks, Jessye Norman and Joan Sutherland. It was equally an honor and privilege to sing with the Choir under the direction of renown orchestra Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta, both with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and Ricardo Muti of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
His passion for music began at an early age of nine, when he would listen everyday to Bach pieces. His enthusiasm and love for music was encouraged by his parents, his elementary music teacher, Mrs. Anna Heimbach, and later on by his teachers and mentors, Mr. Fred Hooper, Mrs. Kay Hooper, and Mr. Frank Pineno. While classical music, especially Bach, played a large role in his music repertoire, he equally enjoyed many other genres, including soft jazz, Latin, New Age, The Carpenters, and music of the 70s and 80s.
While being a scholarly individual, he was also an avid Star Wars and Star Trek fan, from their inception. He had a very keen interest in everything related to outer space, space travel, and yes, even the possibility of beings from another solar system.
Growing up with Legos, he could still be seen sitting with his nephews and grown brother creating, designing, and building.
Jim loved rainy days and electrical storms, and his favorite time of day was late afternoon because it reminded him of Colorado. Fall and Christmas with all its glory and decorating were his favorite times of year, but disliked garish decorations. He would prepare for weeks and hours on end to make sure his church would have the very best Christmas music and services any church could have.
He adored his two dogs, Jake and Joel, who gave him unconditional love, comfort, and companionship, and they could always be found being his snuggle buddies. Many days he could be found snacking of his favorites of Oreo cookies and milk or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. While he had many likes, he had a disdain for automated voice messages, and people entering "Exit" doors. He also had an aversion to posing for photographs, but didn't mind if he was caught while not looking at the camera.
Jim always believed in encouraging young people to develop their interest in music and the arts, and has been a devout advocate for keeping the arts in schools. He once said he wouldn't be who he is today without Kay and Fred Hooper in his life, both of whom he appreciated, respected and admired greatly.
He was always upbeat and had a positive outlook on life. Anyone who knew Jim will attest to his sensitivity, kindness and empathy toward others, and he would always try to see both sides of any problem or situation. He had a wonderfully contagious belly laugh, and his bear hugs were paralleled by none, and they will be missed by all who were recipients of them, but especially by his mother.
By wanting to participate in clinical trials for his disease, he very strongly wanted others to have benefit of the healing it might provide. His enduring strength, courage, and positive outlook on life sustained him through these last years of treatment and pain.
The Rev. Timothy Grayson, rector of his church said to his mother a number of times during his courageous battle, "Jim should be an example and inspiration for all of us."
In addition to being Director of Church Music, Church Organist and Choirmaster at Episcopal Church of the Messiah, Jim was a pipe organ technician, working for Columbia Organ Works of Columbia, during which time he worked on pipe organs in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., as well as The Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception, among others. It was also during his employment with Columbia Organ Works that he had a part, along with fellow co-workers, in the restoration of the grand Midmer-Losh pipe organ in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall. This is the largest pipe organ in the world, as measured by number of pipes. PBS filmed a documentary on the restoration process which was aired nationwide. Although he knew filming was being done, he did not know it was going to be aired and was quite surprised when it was.
He also had been employed by R.A. Daffer & Sons of Jessup, Md., working throughout Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland. During this time he traveled to a job in Decatur, Ala., where he installed a new pipe organ. While working, his photo was taken, unbeknownst to him, and was featured in the Religion section of the city newspaper. Again, he was quite surprised, not realizing that his photo had been taken.
His last place of employment was with Lawless & Associates Pipe Organ Company, which was the former Moller Pipe Organ Company, and again, traveled throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Jim was a member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) and Phi Mu Alphia Sinfonia Music Fraternity.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by one brother, Michael, and wife Stacy, nephews, Steven and Jack, all of East Berlin; caregiver and partner of 16 years, and now spouse, Jeffrey Kuykendall and sons, Jonathan and partner Lauren, Jared and partner Melissa, and grandson, Grayson, and granddaughter, Scarlett, all of Fairfield; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
He was preceded in death by one sister, Melissa on March 29, 2012; his maternal grandparents, Blaine and Kathryn Fahringer; and paternal grandparents, Maurice Gautsch and Jane and Marlin Dressler.
We would like to thank Jeff for his many years of love and devotion to Jim, and his wonderful caregiving the last three years. To close friend, Tom Dressler, for introducing him to the pipe organ and being his first teacher of the instrument that would lead him into his life's work. We would also like to thank the Adams Country Wellspan Oncology staff for their compassionate care of Him during his courageous battle, as well as Spirittrust Lutheran Hospice. To Tammy, Nichole, and Kellie for their love and devotion to Jim these past years and in giving him such special care in his last days. To Phyllis Tyler and Janet Taylor, we would especially like to give many thanks for being such wonderful friends and stand-in moms at Episcopal Church of the Messiah, and who were always there to help him in any and every way they could, especially in keeping him well fed, and to his dedicated and devoted choir members.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 29, with visitation from 10 to 11 a.m. at Sharon Lutheran Church, 120 S. Market St., Selinsgrove, with the Rev. Robert Doll of Sharon Lutheran Church officiating, and the Rev. Timothy Grayson, Rector of Episcopal Church of the Messiah assisting.
Burial will be at the discretion of the family.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Jim's memory to Episcopal Church of the Messiah, 5801 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21214-1848, or to Vickie's Angel Foundation (https://vickiesangelfoundation.givingfuel.com/vickies-angel-foundation). Vickie's Angel Foundation is a non-profit serving nine counties by temporarily helping families fighting cancer who have financial struggles during the challenging times of fighting their cancer.

The family is being assisted by the George P. Garman Funeral Homes Inc., 9366 Route 35, Mount Pleasant Mills.
Published on April 16, 2017
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