Ceremony to honor Messner

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A public ceremony to remember former PTL televangelist Tammy Faye Messner is in the works, with details to follow soon, her son, Jay Bakker, has announced. In a message posted on his Web site – www.revolutionnyc.com – Bakker also offered a few more details about his mother’s death Friday and the cremation and family service on Saturday.

“My mother passed away on July 20 at 4 a.m.,” wrote Bakker, who heads the New York-based Revolution Church. “She had a very peaceful death and is no longer in pain. To grant her wish, she was cremated … and her ashes were buried at a private ceremony.”

Presiding over the service, Bakker said, was his friend, the Rev. Randy McCain, the gay pastor of Open Door Community Church in Sherwood, Ark. Messner had a strong following in the homosexual community.

On Sunday, meanwhile, she was fondly recalled by some former supporters and staffers of PTL – the one-time Christian ministry in Fort Mill, S.C., that included a hotel, campground, theme park and TV talk show starring Messner and then-husband Jim Bakker.

In the late 1980s, it all collapsed amid a sex-and-money scandal that sent Jim Bakker to prison for bilking followers of $158 million.

“A very upbeat, positive lady – strong in her faith, strong in her walk (with Jesus). Just a joy to be around,” said Charlotte’s Bob Johnson, who sang on the “Jim and Tammy” show along with his wife, Jeanne.

Les Marple, another singer on the show, lives in Matthews, N.C., and said he and his wife knew the end was near for Messner when they, like much of America, saw her skeletal face Thursday night during a final interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

“But her spirit was alive,” he said.

Despite the bad news that brought down PTL, Marple said he and others who worked there considered each other family.

And with Messner dying, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if many of the old hands got together to remember her: “I’m sure we’ll probably do something (local) for her. I hope so.”

Also Sunday, Donna Tidwell, a one-time PTL partner, drove up from Greenville, S.C., just to walk around the nearly deserted PTL grounds – including what used to be the Grand Hotel.

“We came to pay our respects to a beautiful lady,” said Tidwell, 48, who was accompanied by her husband, David, and their black dog, Little Doo. “She gave us all hope and inspiration that there is life after this one.”



(c) 2007, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

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