08/05/09 — JAMES E. THIGPEN

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Sept. 26, 1935-Aug. 2, 2009

CAROLINA BEACH -- James Earl Thigpen, 111 Lighthouse Drive, died Sunday at New Hanover Regional Medical Center of pancreatic cancer.

A remembrance of Jimmy's life will be celebrated Aug. 15 at 11 a.m. at 101 King Arthur Drive in Wilmington, home of Mary and James Barnes. The family cordially invites friends to join in this celebration of family fellowship, good food and remembrances of Jimmy through his music and pictures.

Born in Wayne County Sept. 26, 1935, to Herbert and Margaret Thigpen, Jimmy showed an exceptional musical and creative talent, making toys for younger siblings and playing piano for tobacco workers during the summers.

The family was devastated when, at 12, he suffered a severe burn accident that kept him at Duke University Medical Center for one year.

At age 16, he sang a weekly Sunday afternoon radio show of hymns and popular songs on WGBR in Goldsboro, accompanied by sister Anne on the piano.

On entering East Carolina College, Jimmy became pianist for The Collegians, a jazz orchestra, playing events in eastern North Carolina. Additionally and throughout his career, he played jazz piano with small ensembles and directed church choirs.

Jimmy's professional career exhibited his enthusiasm for creating beauty and music. On his first teaching assignment in Richlands, he found the school was without choir robes. Over the Thanksgiving holidays, he organized an assembly line of home economics students, who produced 50 robes for the Christmas concert. Seeing a need for an after school community club for teens, he organized one.

Upon the opening of the new Charles B. Aycock High School in Pikevile, he organized a 50-member community chorus. The school's choral group, Falconnettes and Falconnaires, brought music to area churches and civic events throughout the area. The group was invited to sing on the "Tonight Show" in New York City.

At Fauquier High School in Warrenton, Va., the music department presented several musicals, and the wind ensemble traveled to Tennessee where it made a superior rating in regional competition.

Jimmy obtained a master's degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. With Department of Defense Dependents Schools, he taught on military bases in Japan, Cuba, England and Turkey. When in Japan, Jimmy received a commendation by the base commander for his contribution to welfare and morale. His production of Meredith Willson's "Music Man" brought together school students, military personnel and spouses stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, plus Japanese orchestra players from the local area.

He retired to Dudley during his mother's declining health in 1992, and moved to the Wilmington area some years later.

Jimmy's family includes Elizabeth Morris Thigpen; son, Eric, and his daughter, Alaina; and son Scott, his wife Pamela, and their daughters, Keira, Aspen and Siena.

Sisters are Anne Brown (Ed) of Louisburg, Betty Wiggins (Harold) of Fayetteville and sons, Hal and David, Mary Barnes (James) of Wilmington and daughter, Lisa, and brother, George Thigpen (Linda) of Goldsboro and son, Mark.

The family thanks the nurses in Assisted Care, Lower Cape Fear Hospice and Life Care Center, the Zimmer Cancer Center, and 10th floor New Hanover Regional Medical Center for all the kindnesses shown during Jimmy's last two months of life.

Memorials are appreciated to the charity of your choice in Jimmy's name.

Condolences may be sent to the family at www.andrewsmortuary.com.


Published in Obituaries on August 5, 2009 1:47 PM