Surrounded by his family, the Rev. Earl Preston Jr. passed this week at the age of 85. For years Preston led the world famous Prestionians, a choral ensemble that sang for more than 50 years. Known for his musical talent he was ordained in 1975 and then called to pastor the Morning Star Baptist Church where he worked diligently for 35 years.
Preston retired in 2013 due to illness, but will always be remembered for his style and flare when it came to gospel music. He transformed music at an early age and was a force to be reckoned with. He served as the Minister of Music for The Olivet Institutional Baptist Church where he directed a 200-voice choir under the leadership of the late Rev. O. M. Hoover.
Rev. Preston helped many throughout his life; no matter the outcome he made a difference in many lives. Many have called to say they remember watching WKYC TV 3 every week on the show “I’m So Happy” that featured his choir.
No matter what your walk in the gospel realm, Rev. Preston was a man who had that tall statue built with the extra thick moustache and melodious voice that had many wanting to join his choir. “I remember him well, we have been friends for a very long time. Back when he was still a member of Shiloh Baptist Church until his passing, he will forever be my friend,” said Professor James W. Wade II.
Professor Wade shared what the good old days were like between him, Rev. Preston, Rev. Leon Lawrence and Rev. Raymond Collins. They all use to run together and participate in musical programs.
“All of them are gone on to be with God, and I am thankful that God has allowed me to live. It’s because of Rev. Preston that I came to Morning Star Baptist Church,” said Wade II. Preston, a graduate of East Technical High School, went on to study at The Cleveland Institute of Music, Case Western Reserve University, American Institute of Banking before getting his Master of Arts Degree from Ashland Theological Seminary in 1980.
On Jan. 22, 1977, Rev. Preston was called to pastorate. He began his pastoral duties on Sunday, Feb. 6, 1977, using the personal theme of “Making Our Neighborhood a Brotherhood.” Rev. Preston developed outreach ministries to meet the needs of people. In 1987 he began an outreach program to assist young men in middle schools. This program mentored 7th, 8th and 9th graders in good sportsmanship and assisted them in developing skills in their preparation for manhood.
On Dec. 17, 2000, Pastor Preston and the congregation moved into the edifice at 10250 Shaker Blvd., where his commitments and visions never wavered. He initiated the Hot Meals Program; the Ruby Walker Hunger Center, an outreach ministry funded through the Inter Church Council to assist those in need with food and clothing; the R.E.A.D. Literacy Program for adults; the acquisition of the WSEM Program for middle school children; The Toy Give-A-Way, established in conjunction with the Cleveland Police Department’s Cops, Kids and Christmas; a summer Children’s Lunch Program was initiated in 2002, which ministers and feeds approximately 100 or more.
The church was also aligned with the Buckeye Development Corp. Rev. Preston again began to canvas the neighborhood for souls and initiated other programs to benefit the immediate community making the motto “Making our neighborhood a brotherhood”, a reality.
Rev. Preston had been very active in the Thomas Dorsey Convention now known as National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. Their mission is to better the Christian singer, instrumentalist, educator or leader; to enable the prepared gospel ambassador; and to spiritually motivate everyone to live the message of the Gospel song. The goal is to foster an appreciation of gospel music and to develop the spiritual growth of their membership.
He leaves to mourn his passing a lovely wife for more than 50 years, the former Marian Ella Beryman, his children Tara and Renee and grandchildren who all will miss him dearly.
Viewing for Rev. Preston will be from noon to 7 p.m. Monday, May 9 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 10 at Watson’s Funeral Home, located at 10913 Superior Ave. There will be a musical wake held at 6 p.m. Tuesday and the funeral service will begin promptly at 7 p.m. at the Olivet Intuitional Baptist Church, located at 8912 Quincy Ave.