During his 57 years of life, Rick Slusher shared his love of music and the Lord with the world – with gospel groups and most recently with the First United Methodist Church’s praise team.
A month after his passing, those who shared those same passions are coming together for a special concert to honor his memory and to help his family with medical expenses. Slusher was diagnosed with liposarcoma in 2016, a rare form of cancer that eventually took his life in June after multiple surgeries.
On Sunday, July 15, Friends of Rick Slusher will present ‘Eternal Praises’ at 3 p.m. in the Carroll County High School Auditorium. The special concert will feature music by Ashley Aldred, Close to Home, the FUMC Praise Team, Tabitha Manuel, Spencer Strickland, Brandon Davis, The Alleys, and the New River Boys. Admission is by donation.
Cindy Jackson, music director at Hillsville’s First United Methodist Church, said Slusher was an extremely talented musician. And even though he was talented with many instruments, including his favorite instrument, the guitar, Jackson said Slusher was content to play bass with the church’s praise team. He also served in many ways as the foundation of the church band.
“He was a real calming force, but he also had a wonderful witness with his spirit. He was very encouraging to other members of the praise band,” Jackson said. “Rick was very accomplished with playing and he was very encouraging with everyone else. He was just a great encourager to other people.”
About two months ago, Jackson said she and fellow musician Mark Horton were talking about something they could do for Slusher. As a musician, she said she was not the right person to put together a benefit dinner.
“But I could work on a concert. And so we approached Rick with that and at first he said no, that he was ok. But that was kind of his style, he didn’t want to put anybody to any trouble or make a big deal about himself,” Jackson said. “About a week before he died, he said, ‘You know, a concert would be okay as long as it is not about me, as long as it is about the Lord.’ So he wanted it to be more of an evangelism moment rather than a tribute to Rick.”
About a week before he died, Slusher wrote out the names of musicians he wanted to invite to perform. He even suggested an emcee for the event.
“Basically what we are doing is kind of carrying out his wishes. At that time, he wanted to be around and see the concert, not in person, but streamed or something like that,” Jackson said. “He passed away the next week unfortunately. His sister-in-law Joy said it was his swan song, one last thing he could do that would be kind of like with the way he lived his life.”
Aside from the FUMC Praise Team, all of the musicians who will be performing July 15 recorded under Slusher at his studio – Island Creek Recordings. The New River Boys, a group Slusher founded years ago, has agreed to reunite to play at the special concert.
Slusher’s sister-in-law Joy said the type of cancer Rick was diagnosed with was so rare, his physician told him only one percent of people with cancer have it. Liposarcoma manifests itself in your fat cells and has not proven to be hereditary or genetically imposed.
“It’s just one of those things that happens,” she said. “They gave him no rhyme or reason why it developed on him, they really didn’t know.”
Over the last two years he underwent three major colon-abdominal surgeries. The first was to remove the initial tumor. The second surgery resulted in a colostomy and the third reversed the colostomy. During the entire time, Slusher was undergoing different forms of chemotherapy trying to slow down the progression of the disease, kill the cancer cells and stop the tumors from growing.
“And that last chemo failed. The tumors were multiplying in size and they were taken up abdominal cavity space, decreasing the function of all his internal organs because of the size of the tumors,” Joyce Slusher said. “But he himself chose to go on to Hospice on June 6. They told us it could be one to two weeks but he passed June 11. But he kept his attitude of reaching out to people to encourage them. He was conscious until the last day. He knew people and recognized people. He joked with people that came in about different things they were involved with so he was a light and an encourager up until the end. He just wanted to make it better for everyone else. He told everyone he was just ready to close his eyes, go to sleep and wake up in Heaven. And that is what he did on June 11th.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN