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  #11  
Old 02-24-2006, 01:40 PM
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Here is Tori Taff's (Russ Taff's wife) account of what happened during the concert. Early reports stated Anthony's wife was not on board, but it appears she was.
~PJ



Last night during the evening concert, about two songs after Anthony's solo a woman on the front row began gesturing to the artists onstage and pointing at Anthony. He appeared to have frozen in position, his hands curled into fists and poised above the keyboard, sitting stock still. Immediately the guys closest to him on stage-- Ernie Haase, Roy from SSQ, Reggie Smith and John Bowman-- sprang into action and literally picked him up in the seated position and whisked him off stage before he fell from the piano bench. Those who were with him at this point feel that he was already gone by the time they laid him down backstage. Russ told me last night that he looked Anthony full in the face as he passed by and that he "now knew what a body looked like after the soul had left-- Anthony wasn't in there anymore." The ship's emergency medical crew and the Inspiration Cruise people were right there, and they worked feverishly for the next 45 minutes with CPR and shock paddles but there was never any response. LuAnn got to him very quickly, but he never spoke. Many artists had stayed on the stage, praying with the crowd and leading choruses while all of this was going on. It was horrific, no one knew what they should be doing, but the artists were so unbelievably calm and comforting that they kept everyone from just freaking out. At some point it became apparent what they were dealing with and someone, it may have Russ, addressed the audience and told them that Anthony had passed away. One of the emergency people said later that the sense of hearing is the last to go, so we all have taken great comfort in the fact that the last sound in Anthony's ears as he rushed into the arms of Jesus were the voices of his friends, singing him home.

I was in my cabin with Charlotte when Lisa Haase called me and asked if I had heard anything about Anthony-- someone in the hall had said that he had passed out onstage and may even be dead. I said I would find out immediately, and went running down the hall to the elevator. The first person I saw was Andrew Hayes, Amy's husband, who confirmed what had happened. He said Russ was right behind him, and as I rounded the corner I met Russ on the stairs. We headed straight for Bill's cabin, and joined him at his table there. Gloria was still down with LuAnn and the other artists backstage. Bill was devastated. He was so shaken, and so concerned for everyone-- in over 40 years of singing this has never happened on his stage. He kept asking after every artist, especially the ones that were with Anthony the whole time. Ernie and others came and went, Gloria finally returned and said that Lynda Randle and her husband Michael who is a pastor, were with LuAnn. It became clear that the artists were literally wandering the halls in shock, and Bill decided to gather them together and try to hold on to each other and just be together. The Inspiration guys secured a private meeting room and the artists began to assemble there, hugging each other, crying, shaking our heads in disbelief. My little Maddie Rose had not actually witnessed the whole thing, thankfully, but came into the concert in the middle of it and was there during a lot of the traumatic part. I kept her with us in the room with everyone-- I wanted her to be a part of the grieving, too. We stayed in that room until 1:00 in the morning. We prayed together and sang songs and told stories about Anthony. We found ourselves doing that thing you do when a tragedy strikes, where you all seem to need to talk about what you were doing when it happened, and how you had just seen him that afternoon, and what he had said earlier... almost like you are trying to make it real by saying it out loud. There was such shock and sadness and pain in that room. Anthony had no known history of heart trouble, no physical complaints that anyone was aware of. At one point we all looked up and LuAnn had quietly entered the room-- she said, "I just wanted to be with you all. I didn't know what else to do." She had spent some private moments with Anthony before they took him away, and she had been on the ship's phone trying to reach his family and children. She stayed with us for a long time, and eventually everyone began to head back to their rooms. A decision was made, with LuAnn's input, to continue the scheduled concerts in the morning, but to not attempt to carry on a 'business as usual' concert. Bill said, "We will just be there to try to minister to the people and let God tell us what to do." Becky Isaacs and Lynda Randle stayed the night with LuAnn, and Michael Randle took his Bible and settled into the meeting room to be there all night in case any of the artists couldn't sleep and needed to talk. He truly has a pastor's heart.

Again, I have to tell you all that I have never been so proud to be a part of a group of people as I have been in these hours since Anthony left us. These artists, from Bill and Gloria on down, are such people of integrity and faith. To watch them comfort each other and support each other and affirm their faith to each other-- it has been a life-changing experience. I am honored to be able to count myself among these friends of Anthony's.

The concerts this morning were full of tears, but also full of glorious singing and praise. As so many of the artist have said, this is the time when you decide if you really believe what you have been singing about all these years or not. It's either true, or it's not. And all of us on this ship who have gone through this cataclysmic experience together appear to have decided that we do indeed BELIEVE.

Anthony IS with God, We WILL see him again. His soul is at peace and his legacy will continue. And all of us loved him so very dearly.

Please continue to pray for all of us, and of course most especially for his family. You can see it starting to really sink in today, and I worry about the guys who were on the front lines, so to speak, backstage with Anthony though it all. It was a horrific thing to witness, the death of a friend so young and so shockingly unexpected. I also, frankly, worry about my sweet Russ, who's trying to take care of everyone, especially Bill. Pray that they will all rest well tonight-- no one has slept much at all.

Blessings, peace and comfort to all of you, in the name of the One that Anthony loved and served so well.
We love you,
Tori
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  #12  
Old 02-25-2006, 01:36 AM
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Read his biography. It's very interesting and inspirational.

click here
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  #13  
Old 02-27-2006, 11:02 AM
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Anthony's Visitation & Funeral arrangements are HERE.
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  #14  
Old 02-28-2006, 10:43 AM
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Sympathy cards may be sent to:

The Burger Family
PO Box 680877
Franklin, TN 37068

The family has asked that donations be made to the Gospel Music Trust Fund:

Gospel Music Trust Fund/Anthony Burger
PO Box 144
Goodlettsville, TN 37070
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  #15  
Old 03-02-2006, 10:55 AM
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(From Kirk Talley ...)

Mar 1, 2006

I just left the funeral of Anthony John Burger. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful friend and musician. Pallbearers carried his body into the sanctuary of Christ Church Sanctuary at 1 pm central time, and the final Anthony Burger Production began.

Anthony's daughter, Lori, stood at her seat and beautifully sang "It Won't Rain Always". Then Homecoming choir sang "Amazing Grace", "Beulah Land", featuring Ivan Parker, "Unclouded Day" featuring Ben Speer, "God On the Mountain" featured Lynda Randall, "It is Well With My Soul" featured Larry Ford and David Phelps.

John Fisher spoke on behalf of A.J. and Austin, Anthony's sons. Tabitha Huff, Anthony's neice, spoke on behalf of the Burger family. Russ Taff told a funny story about Anthony being the showman, falling off the piano bench into the orchestra pit and then climbing out and getting a standing ovation. Bill Gaither called Anthony a genius. He then told the story of how one night in Fargo ND, David Phelps didn't show up for his solo but his track started anyway, so Anthony took the solo and played it and got a standing ovation.

The Homecoming Choir then sang "Tell Me the Story Of Jesus" featured Charlotte Richey and Ivan Parker, Jessy Dixon did "What Are They Doing There Now", The Martins were featured on "Rock of Ages", and the Gaither Vocal Band sang "These Are They". There wasn't a dry eye in the house. All the singers were weeping. Dean Hopper shouted just like he used to. It was great.

Pastor Dan Scott then gave a short message about how God took Anthony Burger and turned hands that were burned as a young child into hands that made wonderful music to glorify God.

Then a video was played of Anthony playing Clair De Lune/Jesus Loves Me. As the Homecoming choir sang "Oh Come Angel Band" pallbearers carried their friend, Anthony Burger, out of the auditorium.

Pallbearers were Russ Taff, Terry Gibbs, Roy Webb, Tommy Cooper, Kevin Williams and myself.

Homecoming choir included, Bill and Gloria Gaither, The Easters, The Isaacs, The Perrys, Booth Brothers, Talley Trio, Signature Sound, Ann Downing, Rev Johnny Minick, Dean and Kim Hopper, Wayne Mannerd, Larry Ford, Amy Templeton, Ivan Parker, members of Monument Qt, Mary Tom Speer, Naomi Sego, Geron Davis, Sara Delaney, Judy Nelon, Lou Hildreth, Daryl and Karen Williams, Lari Goss, Roni Goss, Sue Dodge, Kenny Bishop, Jimmy Jones, Steve Hurst, Karen Apple, Jim Thrasher, Mike Allen, Lynda Randall, Stephen Hill, Reggie and Lady Smith, Les Beasley, Robbie Hiner, Jessy Dixon, Calvin Newton, Stan Whitmire, myself, and some others that I can't remember.

Another service will be Friday in Cleveland, TN. I will be singing at that service too. Please keep the family in your prayers.

Kirk
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