Cover photo for Dr. John Read's Obituary
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Dr. John Read

April 25, 1933 — January 9, 2022

Dr. John Read

John William Read was born on April 25, 1933, to Delbert Read and Ella McCoy Read of Lufkin Texas. John was the youngest of six children: Clarice, Delbert known as “Sleepy,” Wallace, Betty, Billy Mac and John. When John was just a few months old, his father, an auto mechanic, was killed in an accident while working under a car.
John grew up in Lufkin and taught Sabbath School at the Lufkin SDA Church. At a young age, John learned to play piano, largely teaching himself; he also learned both the baritone horn and the trombone. In his sophomore year of high school, based upon his conviction about the Sabbath, he told his band director that he would not play at Friday Night football games.
John was an achiever and graduated from Lufkin High School in 1949, at the precocious age of 16. He and his brother Billy Mac then headed to Madison College, a self-supporting Seventh-day Adventist school near Nashville, Tennessee, whose location Ellen White was shown in a dream; Madison was the only school whose governing board Mrs. White served on.
Attending Madison sparked in John a life-long interest in self-supporting Adventist ministries, and in later years when ASI (Adventist Layman’s Services and Industries) was established, he was one of the earliest to join that organization. His real estate brokerage annually renewed its membership in ASI, and he frequently attended the summer conventions. They had the revival spirit of old-time camp meetings that John related to and enjoyed.
At Madison, John was active in all the musical organizations; he studied piano with Sarah Ann Goodge and Sylvia Mitzelfelt, and worked for the band director, Harold E. Mitzelfelt. At Madison, John met and fell in love with Aquila Patterson, a musically gifted young lady from Panama City, Florida; they were married August 30th, 1953, at Madison College, when they were both 20 years old. The marriage lasted almost 64 years, until Aquila’s death in 2017.
After the wedding, John began a career in Adventist education and ministry that would span almost four decades, taking a call to Campion Academy in Loveland, Colorado, where John directed the band. (John could play several wind instruments and was a competent band director, but he always preferred choir.) At Campion Academy, John and Aquila’s first son, John Clayton, was born.
Soon the Reads were called to Shenandoah Valley Academy in New Market, Virginia, where John directed the band and the choir, and Aquila taught voice and piano. Their second son, Campion was born during the Shenandoah years. One of their Shenandoah students, Donna Lee Tucker, was later to marry their son John Clayton Read. During the summers, John and Aquila returned to Texas where John was working on a Master’s Degree in Music from the University of Texas at Austin, which he completed in 1958.
The seven years at Shenandoah were happy ones, and John was popular among, and fondly remembered by, his academy students. He would later refer to his years at Shenandoah as some of the most rewarding of his life. John and Aquila sponsored the classes of 1959 and 1961, and several times returned to New Market to celebrate class reunions with the alumni who graduated in those years.
In 1962, John was called to be the choir director at Southwestern Junior College. Except for three years spent in the Rio Grande Valley, John and Aquila would live in Keene for the rest of their lives. During the early years at Keene, John and Aquila’s daughter, Melissa, and son, David, were born.
While at Southwestern, John earned a doctorate in education from the University of North Texas at Denton. This necessitated many long trips to Denton, and time away from his young family. He completed his dissertation and doctorate in 1968. Part of the impetus for the doctorate was that Southwestern was becoming a senior college, and needed qualified, credentialed faculty. Southwestern transitioned to a senior college in 1966, with full accreditation being awarded in 1970.
He served as chairman of Southwestern’s music department, and remained on the staff for 18 years. One year, after Jack and Wilma McClarty took a call to Southern, John directed both the college band and the college choir. He sought to model his music department after UNT’s rigorous program. He also began participating in singing competitions sponsored by NATS, the National Association of Teachers of Singing. In 1979-1980, his last year at Southwestern, two of John’s students were semi-finalists, and one was a finalist in regional competition.
Highlights of John’s years at Southwestern included taking the college choir to the World Youth Congress in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1969, to Romania in 1976, and finally to Poland in 1980. John was extremely busy in those years, raising the money for those trips and preparing the choirs, but the experiences were priceless. The Romania trip was the largest, with 60 choir members filling two tour buses, and making a three-week circuit of the country.
In Romania, the Adventist presence was (and is) large, and the choir concerts created quite a stir. Remember that Romania was a communist country at that time, behind the iron curtain, and the choir was followed and monitored by Nicolae Ceaușescu’s secret police. The communist authorities eventually forbade the choir to sing sacred music, but John was able to win a carve-out for the Negro Spirituals and the Battle Hymn of the Republic, given the historical and cultural significance of those works. This exception nearly swallowed the rule.
During these years John was usually raising money for something. In the Fall of 1976, the Read Family, as part of the Lyceum Series, gave a Sabbath evening vespers concert with all of the family performing. We still have the recording of that concert, and halfway through, John “could not constrain himself”—those were his words—from making a plea for funds to supplement the college music department’s equipment budget. He and Shirley Beary had toured DFW piano dealers, and realized that to purchase the three studio grand pianos they wanted, they would need more than half-again as much as they were allocated. So please, please give for this worthy cause. Remember that this was just months after having raised many thousands to take sixty choir students to Romania. But that was John Read.
John and Aquila, an organist, were very proud of the twelve-rank, two-manual Casavant pipe organ that John was able to obtain for the college at reasonable cost. It was installed in Evans Hall, which was then the campus recital and concert auditorium.
Speaking of supplementing, during these years John sought to augment his modest teaching salary and support his growing family with various side gigs: He sold music libraries, stop-smoking kits, and term life insurance, among other things, and was for several years the choirmaster at Saint Marks Methodist Church on West Henderson Street in Cleburne. But John’s most significant moonlighting was selling real estate. His mother Ella, who had married a retired Angelina County Sherriff named Henry Billingsley, was a real estate broker. John got his real estate sales license around 1971, and worked under his mother’s broker license, launching Read-Billingsley Real Estate.
After his teaching career at Southwestern ended in 1980, John moved into administrative work for the Texas Conference, becoming the Conference Church Music Coordinator, a position that he created. Ever the fundraiser, he also raised the money to pay his own salary.
As he was visiting churches around the conference, he saw a need for choral music that was of good quality yet simple enough that amateur choir members could learn and perform it. To meet this need, he founded Clarion Call Music. Clarion Call Music published over a dozen choral octavos, a book of solos and duets, and a small blue cloth-bound hymnbook called The Chapel Hymnbook. In a few minutes, the University Singers will perform one of Clarion Call Music’s publications: “I Will Arise and Go to Jesus,” arranged by John Read.
John next moved into pastoral work, pastoring districts in and around Dallas, and becoming an ordained minister. He became adept at delivering sermons, but even while pastoring churches, his first love was music. For example, while he was an associate pastor of the Dallas Central Church, he put on a very memorable performance of the Messiah, with guest soloists and a full orchestra.
From 1982 through 1984, John was on the hymnal committee that produced the 1985 Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal. John and Aquila also became active in the Seventh-day Adventist Church Musicians Guild, and during John’s two-year term as president of the national association, from 1984 to 1986, John planned a national convention that was held on the SWAU campus in 1986.
After pastoring the Garland-Plano district, and being associate pastor of the Dallas Central Church, John was asked to serve as principal of Greater Dallas Academy. This led, in 1989, to John accepting a call to Valley Grande Academy in Weslaco, Texas. John served as principal and Aquila taught music, history, and other subjects.
In 1992, John and Aquila returned to Keene and renovated their dream house on Bluebonnet Trail, which they had built in 1973. Bluebonnet was part of Songbird Acres, which John had developed as a realtor in the early 1970s. For the first time in 39 years, John took a full-time job outside of the Adventist denomination, at Odyssey Harbor, a state-funded institution for abused and neglected children. John preached and taught, Aquila taught and did music therapy, and brother Sleepy Read did art therapy.
John also reactivated Read-Billingsley Real Estate, which had been dormant for over a decade. This time he was the broker. In these decades of his third and final career, John or agents working at his brokerage sold many of the houses in Keene, some of them twice, and few of them three times. He joined the Johnson County Association of Realtors and seldom missed one of their monthly luncheons or their annual banquet, and sometimes participated in their social activities, like bowling, just for the sake of fellowship.
Read-Billingsley Real Estate was one of the first businesses to join the Keene Chamber of Commerce. John was a regular at the monthly chamber luncheons, and typically bought a table at the annual Chamber banquet. Civic boosterism came naturally to John Read, because he loved people and wanted everyone to succeed. He understood that every other man’s success made his success easier and more likely, and vice versa.
John continued to support the SWAU music department, attending recitals and concerts when he could. Around the year 2000, although he was long retired from academic music, John, accompanied on the piano by Dr. John Boyd, performed a lecture recital, in which he sang Italian aria, German Liede, oratorio, English art songs, and musical comedy.
John loved the “Evening at the Meyerson,” when SWAU instituted that tradition; he typically had Read-Billingsley purchase a balcony box at that elite Dallas performing arts venue, which he and Aquila would then share with invited guests.
John was usually pressed into service in Aquila’s Sunday church choirs for special Christmas and Easter performances—that’s just part of marriage—and Aquila almost always had a Sunday church job, including 18 years at Holy Comforter and 25 years at First Presbyterian in Cleburne.
John was predeceased by his wife, Aquila, a sister and three brothers. He is survived by his sister, Betty Ann Price of Keene, children John Clayton, Campion, Melissa, and David, a Granddaughter, Kelly Read, of Redlands, CA, and a great granddaughter Zoe Read, of California.
The Funeral will be held at the Keene Church on Thursday, January 13, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the John Read Choral Scholarship Fund at Southwestern Adventist University, care of Timothy Kosaka.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dr. John Read, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Visitation

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

6:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)

Crosier-Pearson Cleburne Funeral Home

512 North Ridgeway Drive, Cleburne, TX 76033

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Service

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Starts at 3:00 pm (Central time)

Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church

114 North Fairview Street, Keene, TX 76059

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Interment

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