URBANA — People are are mourning the loss of a musical legend, Willie T. Summerville. Summerville taught in Urbana for decades, but even after retirement, he was still involved in the community. His legacy lives on through those who knew him best.

People have been talking about him all day. He’s already missed, but certainly won’t be forgotten.

Plenty of teachers have made their mark on kids in central Illinois, but Summerville had a special gift. Mr. Summerville – as everyone called him – was always sharing: himself, his talents, his time. He’s been on WCIA through the decades, helping with concerts, volunteering at churches, showing love for those he served. Everyone has a story to share about Summerville.

“He judged me at Solo and Ensemble Contest when I was a sixth grader on a vocal solo,” said Darren Hicks, who is the Urbana district’s music coordinator. “A few years ago, I shared the actual form. I had kept it. So we got to laugh about that a little bit as I showed him that form.”

Some only knew him a few minutes. Others for years. Summerville mentored Stephanie Price-Hammond the last three decades.

“Every kid that I’ve taught, there’s something I’m giving of him to them,” said Price-Hammond.

Now she teaches at Urbana Middle School, following the footsteps of a man she knows and respects so well.

“This man mentored me,” Price-Hammond told her students on Wednesday. “And everything he taught me in the 30 years I’ve known him, I’m giving it to you because he loves children and I love you guys.”

With tears in their eyes and a song in their heart, his friends will remember his smile and his laugh.

“The richness he leaves behind, the legacy he leaves behind is all the people, the lives he touched and everything else,” said UHS principal Matthew Stark. “It’s just tremendous.”

That’s what they’ll pass on to the next generation. 

Summerville was planning to be part of a concert this weekend. It’s the Black Sacred Music Symposium at the University of Illinois Krannert Center. Organizers say they’re dedicating the event to him. It’s on Sunday at 7:30 pm.