Richard Hyatt

Richard Hyatt: Giving and never missing a note

Jack Buchanan, according to a friend, was a lovely person who gave a lot but asked for little in return.

As a husband and father he was generous to his wife and sons. As a dentist, he was generous to patients he treated nearly 40 years. As a musician, he blessed congregations all over town, whatever their denomination. As a friend, he shared stories about the old days at Wynnton School and Columbus High.

But right now, people are talking about the gifts Jack Buchanan delivered at his funeral last week.

He has been in and out of hospitals. Cancer does that to a person, but he refused to wilt. He cared for patients the Thursday before he died on Monday and played the organ at Wynnton United Methodist Church eight days before his death.

Family and friends gathered at the church last Wednesday to pay their respects. Two ministers presided, a Methodist and a Baptist, putting aside insignificant theological differences so they could say goodbye to a significant friend.

Buchanan made music most of his life. He took lessons from Anne Mordic, who taught scores of children to play the piano. Returning from dental school he played at churches big and small, and his love affair with church music never waned.

The Rev. Frank Parr already felt the loss. Buchanan had been the organist at Wynnton Methodist since before he arrived. For a moment, he shared his pulpit with the Rev. Jimmy Elder of First Baptist, where Buchanan was a member and former church organist

They playfully bickered over his church affiliation. Parr called him a "Metho-Bap." Elder corrected him and said he was a "Bapto-Meth." But they were in unison when it came to his devotion to music.

Which leads to the question everyone was asking before services began. For years Buchanan reverently played the appropriate hymns at funerals. But who would provide the music at his?

Two pews were filled with organists that had shared the stage with him in various settings. Would one of them sit down at the keyboard?

In the end, Jack Buchanan played the organ at Jack Buchanan's funeral. On two pieces a CD of him playing was used but, more amazingly, on a third song technology allowed him to touch the keys and foot pedals one last time.

And he never missed a note.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at