Church, community mourn sudden loss of long-time organist

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Wright killed in accident near North Vernon home

By Phyllis McLaughlin

The Trimble Banner
Silent and shrouded in black cloth, the organ at Mount Byrd Christian Church in Milton stood as a memorial to honor a central member of the congregation.
Billie Alyn Wright, 61, who had served as organist at the church since 1965, died from injuries sustained when she was struck by a car near her house in North Vernon, Ind., Tuesday, Jan. 11.
Wright and her husband, Orville, were helping a driver whose car had slid off the road into the snow at 7:12 p.m. According to a release from the Jefferson County, Ind., Sheriff’s Office, she was struck by a second car driven by Mallory McGaughey, 26, of Hanover, Ind. The release said Wright stepped into the path of the oncoming car. Deputy Justin Cheatham is investigating the incident.
Wright was flown by helicopter to University of Louisville Hospital, where she died at 1:10 a.m. Wednesday.
About 1,100 mourners attended visitation Friday night, winding through the pews in the Mount Byrd sanctuary for hours to pay their respects.
“It’s just devastating,” said Pastor Aaron Snelling by phone last week. “It’s a big loss to us in many, many ways.”
An accomplished seamstress, Write also made all the costumes for church productions, Snelling said, adding that she also was hired to help with costumes during filming of the 2005 movie “Madison.”
Wright also was a former employee of Trimble County Schools.
“It will not be easy, for a time, to replace her; we don’t have an organist to replace her that we know of,” Snelling said, adding that churches should invest in giving organ lessons to young people.
“It’s probably been 100 years since Mount Byrd has not had an organist,” he said.