Fans mourn the passing of Widespread Panic’s Michael Houser

Being part of a family is tough, especially when someone dies. We all have to grow up and share some of the sorrow, just like we shared the joy.

The life and death of Widespread Panic guitarist Michael Houser unfolded before our eyes and ears, and showed us the formidable beauty of the human spirit. The guitarist passed away on Saturday, Aug. 10, in his home in Athens, Ga. In July, Houser posted an on-line message to the band’s community of fans informing them that he had been diagnosed with a terminal form of pancreatic cancer.

“In the words of Lou Gehrig,” he wrote, “though some of you may have thought I have caught a bad break, I feel like the luckiest man in the world.” On Monday, Aug. 12, Panic communities around the country and the world joined together to share the loss of a friend who’d given them so many wonderful memories.

The local gathering took place at Pack Square. Pictures were passed around and stories told of unforgettable shows and great times spent in the company of the beloved guitarist. Amy Kimball, who drove from Sylva to attend, remarked, “It’s the uncertainty about what’s going to happen to our community, and just overall sadness, are the emotions that I’m feeling.”

But Dennison Wedd, a fan from Atlanta, embraced optimism: “Perhaps Houser said it best in his own words to the song ‘This Part of Town': ‘Where there is love, there is hope’ — for me, knowing that there are so many folks who love and admire Mikey for his musical ability, tolerance for adversity and perspectives on life leaves hope for our community and world.”

[As a living memorial to Widespread Panic guitarist Michael Houser and his love of music, family members have asked that contributions be sent to: The Michael Houser Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 6548, Athens, Ga., 30604. The fund, associated with Athens Academy, will allow children to “discover the richness and wonder of music that so enriched Michael’s life,” according to a statement from the family.]

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