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Mr. Chester “Ben” Free, Jr., age 66, of Fayetteville, passed away March 16, 2020.
Ben was born on June 30, 1953 to Mary Faye Free Todd and the late Chester Ben Free, Sr. As the son of a Baptist minister, Ben’s family lived throughout Alabama, Georgia and northwest Florida while growing up, but Ben considered Pensacola, FL his hometown. At the age of 14, Ben began his lifelong career of music ministry by serving as the music director in one of his father’s churches. He attended Florida State University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Music Education. He continued his studies at Scarritt College in Nashville and earned a Master’s Degree of Church Music as well as a Specialist Degree in Library Science from West Georgia University. He was a Music Minister for many churches and was consecrated as Diaconal Minister in the United Methodist Church. Ben directed choirs, performed vocal solo works and played the piano and the organ. He was a Music Minister and member of Richards Memorial United Methodist Church of Pensacola, where he met his future bride, Anne Byrd. The couple wed on August 4, 1979. Like his father, Ben’s career took his family to many churches around the Southeast. Ben and Anne lived in Monroeville, AL for about 6 years, during which time the couple welcomed their newborn son and then a daughter.
In 1994, The Free family settled in Fayetteville, where Ben taught music education at Jonesboro Middle School for ten years in addition to his church responsibilities for a local congregation. Ben eventually retired from music ministry in 2009. Most recently, Ben was a member of the choir and a member of Fayetteville First United Methodist Church. Music, faith and family were the focus of Ben’s life. He was an avid reader of any genre. He was a frequent volunteer at the Fayetteville Senior Center and a member of the Center’s book club. He was kind-hearted and cared deeply for friends at the Senior Center. He was personable and outgoing. Ben had an off-beat sense of humor and was the jokester of his family. He was social and loved being around people. He was chatty and always had a story to share. Ben was a supportive and loving father to his son and daughter. He will be remembered as a tender-hearted, music-loving husband, father and friend.
Ben is survived by his beloved wife: Anne Byrd Free of Fayetteville; son: Garet Free of Chicago, IL; daughter: Megan Free of Atlanta; mother: Mary Faye Free Todd of Albany, GA; sisters and brothers-in-law: Leah and Duane McCaskill, Sandy and Bill Bamford, all of Albany; brother and sister-in-law: Monroe and Kim Free of Greenville, SC; many nieces and nephews; special canine companion: Murphy.
A Memorial Service will be held in Ben’s honor at a later date at First United Methodist Church, 175 East Lanier Avenue, Fayetteville, GA. A reception and celebration of life will be held immediately following the service when the family will receive visitors. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Music Ministry of Fayetteville First United Methodist Church, the ALS Association Georgia Chapter, or the Spastic Paraplegia Foundation. The Free family is being assisted by Georgia Cremation, 1086 Hwy 54 West, Fayetteville. Messages of condolence may be left at www.GeorgiaCremation.com.