By Billy W Moore
Editor’s Note: Funeral services for Brother Ross O. Spears were conducted May 6, 1976 by Brother Billy Moore in the Underwood and Steinback Funeral Home of Butler Missouri. Interment was in the Johnstown cemetery near the birth place of Brother Spears.
Brother Spears had conducted a gospel meeting for the Platt Woods congregation in the Kansas City area the previous week. Before returning to his work with the Christian Chapel church at Kettle, Kentucky, he and Mrs. Spears were spending a few days at the farm near Butler. Early on Tuesday morning, after mowing some in the lawn, he quickly and quietly succumbed a heart attack.
Brother Billy Moore, a long time friend of the Spears family delivered the funeral address, The audience of friends, relatives and brethren (some had traveled great distances to attend) were impressed as Brother Moore unfolded the full life of Brother Spears.
“Footprints in the sand of time . . .” have been left by my dear friend and brother Ross O. Spears. It was more than 78 years ago that Mr. and Mrs. William (Bill) Spears became the happy parents of another son, and named him Ross O. He grew up with his five brothers and two sisters in a little rural community of Bates County, Missouri, called Johnstown. Little did his family realize that this boy would grow up to be a preacher of the gospel of Christ, and one of the greatest song leaders that churches of Christ would produce in the Twentieth Century. Ross was known far and wide among brethren, working together with the very greatest gospel preachers, singing for the biggest churches in the nation, teaching singing classes, and teaching singing in colleges operated by brethren. He was in constant demand.
Early in life his musical talent began to show and develop, As he and his brothers entertained the folks of their community and surrounding areas. He fell in love with a pretty little girl of his community, Flora Dudley, and waited for her to grow up so they could be married. For over fifty years they shared their lives. never losing that first love, but watching it grow and grow. Scarcely will you find a man and wife whose lives are so entwined. Two children were born unto them, a daughter, Ettie, and a son, Dudley Ross; they have six grandchildren, three step grandchildren and eight great grand children. It has always been a close knit family, bound together by the strings of love, and centered to a very great degree around Ross O. Spears.
Today we do not weep and sorrow for our dear friend, Ross, for we know the faith that stood as the foundation of his life, and we know the hope that filled his soul. For sixty years or more he has been preparing for death, the judgment and eternity. He taught his wife, his children and his grandchildren how to go to heaven, and then set an example before them, and all their friends.
Today we weep with them, and we extend our sympathies to them, in their great loss, FOR THEY MUST GO ON LIVING WITHOUT HIM . . . without his firm hand about their shoulder . . . without his warm and friendly smile to welcome them . . . without his loving and gentle counsel to direct them . . . BUT LIVE YOU MUST! He would not want you to retreat in sorrow. Yet, we know that before you lie many days of sorrow, days when there will be much emptiness of heart, such a hollowness within, such a hurting in your soul that you will think you can’t go on. But YOU WILL GO ON! For you have inherited something from him and have gleaned something from his teaching and his life, that will strengthen you in the days when you are heavy laden in heart and in the nights when you awake and can think only about him … and that something is an indomitable faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, and in the divine providence of our Father in Heaven whom we serve . . . believing that He will see you through and that things will work out alright.
So, to all of you in his family I say, Continue to trust in the Lord with all thine heart . . . hold on to the faith that has been planted within your soul, never wavering, never faltering, for nothing else would make brother Spears so pleased with his family. (Prayer)
“KNOW YE NOT THAT THERE IS A PRINCE AND A GREAT MAN FALLEN THIS DAY IN ISRAEL? AND I AM THIS DAY WEAK . . .” (2 Samuel 3:38). These were the words of David as he stood beside the bier of Abner, hundreds of years ago. They are my words today, because I know the man beside whose body I stand, and I believe he was a prince and a great man.
A “prince” is “an outstanding man in any group or class.” Ross 0. Spears was a prince among men. He was truly an outstanding man, in so many ways. He was outstanding AS A PREACHER OF THE WORD, with his rich and mellow voice and in the way of the old school of preachers, he proclaimed, with ease and simplicity, without shame but with great joy, the cross of Christ. He preached Christ and him crucified in many different places.
About ten years ago he was going to retire from full time work as a preacher. (He had had some surgery and felt that he would not be able to do the work again.) He and Flora returned to their home place at Johnstown and began attending services with us in Butler. I visited with them often, and I knew he was not content just to sit out on the farm and preach occasionally when I was away. So, I encouraged him to get back into preaching. Brethren at Mulvane, Kansas called him to come out and preach for them. He told me, “Billy, I think I’ll go. It will just be for four or five months, until they can get someone to move there to work with them.” I said, Brother Spears, I want you to go, but it will be for four or five years. And sure enough, it was! Those brethren fell in love with him, and when he left them they were very sorrowful, But he did not return to the farm, he and Flora went back to Kentucky where he had preached for fifteen years, and began. working with the church at Kettle, Kentucky. The brethren there loved him and his word. Brother Spears told me time and again, “I could not be treated better by any people anywhere than those people treat me. They won’t let me do too much.”
A week ago last Monday my wife and I took Ross and his wife up to Kansas City where he began a series of meetings with the Flatt Wood church. The four of us enjoyed dinner together before going to the meeting. That night I heard him for the last time and his subject was: Christ and Him Crucified. After the service we said good-bye and left him there to preach in what was to be his last gospel meeting. The brethren there had not met him until that night, but at the close of the meeting they praised him for his preaching, for his pleasant ways, for the good job he had done, and for the encouragement he had brought to them. It was the same story that is heard everywhere he has gone: folks quickly learn to love him and to appreciate him. How fitting, as if through providence, that his wife returned to Flatt Wood Sunday afternoon to be with him, to bring him back home after the meeting, and was present to hear his last sermon. Yes, as a preacher of the gospel he was a prince and a great man.
He Was a “Prince” of a Singer. At age 78 he was still among the best, as his melodious voice would ring out in praise unto the Lord. Following the last service he attended in Butler, some of the women who have not known him his many years, told him how much they enjoyed his singing. He loved to sing. His family loved it. He lead singing for the greatest of preachers and biggest of churches of Christ in the land. But with all his popularity, with all his ability, he remained such a humble man; never arrogant, never assuming, never presumptuous, but meek and gentle and pleasant always pleasant. Truly, a prince among men.
He Was a “Prince” in Life. His example was good. His name is respected where ever he has lived, and although surpassing the “three score and ten” it never showed in his disposition. He did not grumble or complain, he never seemed to be old, in fact people frequently remarked about the youthful spirit which he displayed. Even last Sunday night the brethren talked about it, and brother Spears would say, “I can’t get old. My wife won’t let me; my children won’t let me and my grandchildren won’t let me.” The faith that dominated his life, the hope that cheered his heart, the word that lighted his way, the Christ who filled his soul . . . kept him young at heart and ever ready to encourage someone else. Oh, if we could all imitate that youthful disposition.
He Was a Prince at a Get-together. Throughout his life he entertained people. To the end he was outstanding at this. Many times when several were together at our house, I have coaxed him to the piano and for half an hour we were all joyfully entertained by his playing and singing, mostly the grand old songs of yesteryear . . . all played and sung by memory. His fingers were nimble at the keyboard, or with the stringed instruments when it came to entertaining folks. But he never had a lesson, he just learned it in youth. He has told me about the first time he was invited to teach singing in a college. He told his friend, who was the President of the college, “I don’t have a degree in music,” so Ross went back to school; first as a pupil, then as a teacher. Yes, he was an outstanding man.
Like David of old, when he stood beside the bed on which his friend Abner lay, I stand beside the body of niy beloved friend and say, “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel, and I am this day weak . . .” I have known him only twelve years, he was over 30 years my senior, yet he was a very good friend . . . age doesn’t mean much when we grow up. I would like to have known him longer. But I have listened to many stories from out of the past . . . from him and his brothers Rex and Ronald. I have spent a week in his home on two different occasions, while I preached in meetings for the church where he was preaching. I have spent an afternoon or evening in his home many times when he and Flora were out on the farm. I knew the man . . . not as long as many of you knew him . . . but I knew him and I knew him well. I know what kind of a man he was . . . tender, loving, encouraging.
To me, brother Spears was a great man, because he pointed the souls of men unto Christ, that their faith might stand in the power of God. He was great because he brought the word of life to so many souls . . . helped them learn what one must do to be saved … baptized many into the body of Christ . . . encouraged many more to be faithful, and he was ever set for the defense of the faith. He was great because his faith was great! Ile was great because the Christ whom he preached was and is great! He was great because he possessed a great hope, the hope of eternal life.
I would that those of you who are not Christians would be constrained to follow the example he set of faith and obedience to the Lord.
TODAY Ross O. Spears is “asleep in Jesus”. The end of life in this world came in a way that he would have prescribed: his last week was spent preaching the word, he was at his home place, which he dearly loved, his wife was with him, and he crossed the river of death without pain and without struggle. In the words of a grandson: “The providence of God allowed him to die in dignity.” And I am confident that when he came to “the valley of the shadow of death” he was not alone, for like the Psalmist of old, he could say, “Thou are with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Indeed, Ross Spears “fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith.” Because of this we believe that there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to him at that day.
For on some “tomorrow” Ross O. Spears shall be raised, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
May these words bless and comfort the hearts of Flora, Ettie, Dudley, Caroline, Ted, Tim, Martha Jane, Ronald and the other relatives, brethren and friends of Ross O. Spears: “A prince and a great man.”
Surely a request he would make for his dear wife would be found in the words of an old testament character: “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” (Gen. 31:49)
Places he preached were: Freed-Hardeman College singing teacher 1938 (student ’35-’37); Memphis, Tenn. Union Ave. Church – 1938-43; Dyersburg, Tenn. – ’43-’53; Bolivar, Mo. ’53-’55; Tompkinsville, Ky. – ‘55265; Mustang, Okla. ‘65267; Mulvane, Kansas – ’67’72; Kettle, Ky. – ’72 to present, plus many meetings.
Truth Magazine XX: 29, pp. 454-456
July 22, 1976