Barbara Jeanne (‘Tootsy’) Bennett Lambert of Fayetteville, N.C. passed away in the early morning hours of Monday, August 14, 2017 in the comfort of her daughter’s home, surrounded by love. She was born and raised in Elizabethtown, N.C. and was the daughter of the late Dr. & Mrs. Ernest Claxton (E.C.) Bennett. She was the dearly loved mother of Barbara Elizabeth Lambert of Fayetteville, and sister of Jayne Gunnell Bennett Smith of Whiteville, N.C. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband of 56 ½ years, Otis Phillip Lambert, Jr., originally of Morganton, N.C.
At the age of 5, Barbara Jeanne’s gifts in piano were discovered and mentored under the influence and teachings of her mother, Lelia McClellan Bennett, also a pianist and teacher. As her piano skills increased and were perfected through various piano competitions and hours of practice, she soon discovered that it was her life’s desire to make music and concert piano performance her lifelong calling. Upon graduating from Elizabethtown High School, Barbara Jeanne was awarded a music scholarship to attend Sullins Jr. College in Bristol, Virginia/Tennessee where she not only excelled in piano performance but was also elected as “May Queen”. After graduating from Sullins, Barbara Jeanne transferred to Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C. where she obtained both her Bachelors and Masters degrees of Music in Piano Performance.
In September of 1952 at Converse College, Barbara Jeanne and Otis Lambert first met. From that moment on, Otis and “Tootsy” became inseparable and began a lifetime and career together. While still in college, they got married on January 1st, 1954. Soon after graduating from Converse College, the couple moved to New York City where they both landed jobs while continuing to study and perform. After living for over two years in New York, they decided to move back to the South to raise their expectant child and continue their lives and careers there.
In August of 1957, Barbara and Otis accepted positions as the Director of Music and Organist at Highland Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, N.C. where they shared their talents with children and adults alike, building and directing an adult sanctuary choir of great quality that became very well known, performing both locally and statewide. Both Barbara and Otis served and shared their musical talents at Highland for 27½ years until 1984. In addition to their jobs at Highland, Barbara Jeanne taught hundreds of piano students of all ages, providing quality private instruction to such local talents as Pat O’Brient, the late Jane Weeks Gardiner, and Mark Harris, among numerous others.
Both Barbara and Otis were involved from the onset in 1970 of a new, small, private college preparatory school in Fayetteville known as the Fayetteville Academy, at which they served as charter teachers and were asked to establish and nurture the music program - a program which they led, enhanced, and cherished - touching the lives of countless children and instilling a love of music for 35 years, until their retirement in 2005. Barbara wrote the words to the school’s Alma Mater which is still sung by students today.
At one time, Barbara and Otis commuted weekly and served as Director of Music and Organist at Trinity United Methodist Church in Elizabethtown, N.C. In addition, at various time periods, Barbara also shared her talents and served as interim organist at several local churches such as Village Drive Baptist Church, St. James Lutheran Church, Peace Presbyterian Church, and most recently, she served for 9 years as pianist at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Spring Lake. Barbara Jeanne and Otis Lambert gave their entire lives together sharing their talents for the joy and beauty of music within the Fayetteville community and with people all over. Most importantly, they always did it with much love ~ and always, to the Glory of God.
Barbara was a member of the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution). In addition, she was a very active member of the Chaminade Music Club, an organization for which she served as President for two terms.
In addition to being survived by her devoted daughter, Barbara Elizabeth, and her sister, Jayne Gunnell, Barbara Jeanne is also survived by cousins Phillip Greene (Edwina) and Casey Greene (Donna) both of Elizabethtown, Debbie West Alfano (Al), of Dallas, Texas, numerous beloved nieces, nephews, extended family members, friends, her cherished cat ‘Prissy’, and her beloved grand-dogs ‘Chip,’ and ‘Ollie.’ ‘Tootsy’s” family would like to extend their most heartfelt gratitude to those who have cared for her over the most recent span of her life including Dr. Julia Norem and nurse Ruth, Dr. Sanjay Mittal, Dr. Chika Okafor, John Crawley, the host of incredible friends of her daughter, and her Highland Presbyterian Church and Fayetteville Academy families.
A service celebrating Barbara Jeanne’s life will be held on Friday, August 18, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. at Highland Presbyterian Church, 111 Highland Avenue, Fayetteville, N.C. led by Dr. Ernie Johnson. A reception will follow in the church’s Fellowship Hall.
A graveside service will be in Elizabethtown Cemetery in Elizabethtown, N.C. on Saturday, August 19, 2017 at 12:00 noon. If so kindly considered, memorials may be made to any of the following: The Lambert Family Endowment of Fayetteville Academy, The Music Department of Highland Presbyterian Church, F.A.P.S. (Fayetteville Animal Protection Society), or Lab Rescue of North Carolina.
Arrangements are entrusted to the care of Sullivan’s Highland Funeral Service of Fayetteville.