BROOKSVILLE — Julia Jinkens remembers the advice that Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church choir director Lee Gordon gave her when she joined the ensemble.
"She told me to never look out into the congregation, only to watch her," Jinkens recalled. "She knew what she was doing because it worked. We sounded good — even in spite of my voice."
Such was the way with the woman who spent more than 22 years as the church's choir director and earned the affectionate nickname of "General Lee."
Mrs. Gordon died Wednesday at Hernando-Pasco Hospice in New Port Richey after a battle with cancer. She was 62.
Throughout Thursday, Lee Gordon was remembered by friends and family as a passionate music lover, and a woman who enjoyed bringing her affection for the performing arts into the lives of others in her community.
"She was a real treasure," said Brooksville Vice-Mayor Lara Bradburn. "A lot of people talk about doing good things for the community. Lee was a person who actually did them."
During the late 1960s, Mrs. Gordon, along with her sister Reville Johnson, produced several musicals at the old Dixie Theater in downtown Brooksville. Perhaps her most notable accomplishment was the establishment of the New Nostalgics, a popular vocal group that performed dinner theater concerts around the county from the late 1970s through the 1990s.
According to Jinkens, the troupe wowed audiences with its fresh-faced professionalism.
"Lee was a true perfectionist," Jinkens said. "She had a knack for bringing out the best in any singer."
Born and raised in Brooksville, Lee Slayden Gordon graduated from Hernando High School and obtained a degree in music from Florida Southern College in Lakeland, where she also served as president of her sorority.
Returning to Brooksville, she worked as choral director for Hernando High and later helped start the performing arts program at Hernando Christian Academy. In addition, she taught voice lessons privately.
According to her brother-in-law Woodland Johnson, Mrs. Gordon considered her gift of music as a spiritual blessing that compelled her to pass along to others.
"That's why she loved working with young people," Johnson said. "Lee always encouraged them to give their best."
Johnson said that despite her illness, Mrs. Gordon remained upbeat until the end. A few weeks ago she attended a service at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Said Johnson, who is coordinating a praise and worship service for Mrs. Gordon at the church. "It gave her great comfort. Music was her life."
Married to James R. Gordon for 38 years, the couple divorced in October. Mrs. Gordon's survivors include three children, James Russell Jr. of Alaska; Reppard O'Hara Gordon of North Port; and Tinsley Gordon Merrell of Salisbury, N.C.; sisters Reville Johnson of Land O'Lakes and Martha Slayden MacGregor of Tarpon Springs; and six grandchildren.
A visitation service for Lee Gordon will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. today at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 200 Mount Fair Ave., Brooksville. A service of celebration will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, also at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Lee Gordon Memorial Fund. For more information, call Loyless Funeral Home in Land O'Lakes, 813-996-6610.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.