Hundreds mourn for pop singer


SOMERS, Conn. (AP) – Condolences and flowers came in from all over the world. Gene Pitney’s voice and music had international appeal.

It always had. Yet his heart had never left his hometown and now the “Rockville Rocket” was home to stay.

Pitney, 66, who died last week while touring in Wales, was remembered during funeral services Wednesday as a friend and neighbor who, regardless of where he traveled, cherished coming back home to be with his wife and three sons.

“He loved being here, not in Hollywood,” Somers resident Chett Ladd said.

Pitney, whose keening voice produced a string of hits including “Town Without Pity,” died of natural causes. He was found dead April 5 in his hotel room a day after he had played a concert that fans claimed was one of his best.

About 300 mourners attended services at All Saints Church. Fans from around the country and the world expressed their condolences on the Web site of the Rockville funeral home that handled the arrangements.

During a long career, Pitney had hits as a singer – “24 Hours from Tulsa,” “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance,” and “Half Heaven, Half Heartache.” As a writer, he penned “Hello Mary Lou” for Ricky Nelson and “Rubber Ball” for Bobby Vee. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Mourners included neighbors and lifelong fans. Paul Gagliarducci, a longtime family friend, called Pitney “a man full of quiet generosity.”

Linda Mallory of Chicago said she fell in love with Pitney and his music when she was 13 and traveled to Connecticut for his wake. She estimates she’s been to more than 30 of his concerts since 2000.

“I was in love as I could be as a 13-year-old,” Mallory said.

Gary Rue, of Minneapolis, who toured the United States with Pitney as his musical director for nearly 18 years, said working with him was a wonderful experience.

“I’m going to miss him, bad,” Rue said.

Born in Hartford, Conn., Pitney married his high school sweetheart, Lynne, in 1967, and kept a base in Connecticut all his life. He built a recording studio in his home in Somers, 20 miles northeast of Hartford.

Pitney was buried in Somers Center Cemetery.