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TUPELO – Jo Kathleen Miller Orr died Tuesday, November 17, 2020, surrounded by her family, in the hospice unit of North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo of an extended illness. She was 75 years old.
Mrs. Orr was a prominent voice teacher and musician who taught at Itawamba Community College for 22 years, serving as Chairman of the Music Education Department, as well as teaching voice and choral music. She taught voice to scores of students and imparted her great love of music to hundreds through music appreciation classes. She was choir director at First Presbyterian Church, Tupelo, from 1971 to 1986; St. Luke United Methodist Church, Tupelo, from 1986 to 2005; Interim Choir Master at All Saints Episcopal Church, Tupelo from 2005 to 2008; Choir Director at First United Methodist Church, Ripley, MS, from 2008 to 2013; First United Methodist Church, Pontotoc, MS, from 2013 to 2015; and again at Ripley First United Methodist Church from 2017 until her retirement for health reasons in 2020.
Mrs. Orr served as a founding member and soprano soloist for the Tupelo Community Chorus; soloist with the Tupelo Symphony, Jackson Symphony, Greenville Symphony and other regional orchestras.
She was active in the National Association of Teachers of Singing, having served as President of the Mississippi Chapter. She served as President of the Fortnightly Musicale of Tupelo from 2001—2003 and President of the Mississippi Federation of Music Clubs from 2005—2007. She was active in the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts and attended “Music Week” at Lake Junaluska, NC, for many years, serving as soloist and presenter.
She loved life and took great pleasure in her grandchildren and their activities. She also had a deep love of animals, and she had many pets over the course of her life. She realized the sacredness of all God’s creatures, both great and small.
She is survived by her husband and musical partner of 51 years, Ben Orr and two daughters: Anna Orr Cayson (Herman Hussey Jr.) of Tupelo, and Megan Orr Ewing (John), of Johnson City, TN. Her grandchildren: Taylor Blaylock (Jaylin), Benjamin Cayson, Caroline Cayson, and Owen Ewing. She leaves behind her sisters, Margaret Miller of Jonesborough, TN, Libby Chambers (Larry) of Blanchard, OK, and Mitzi Wilscam of Enterprise, AL. Also surviving are two nephews, Gabe Sanchez of Johnson City, TN, and Jared Speed of Norfolk, VA, and one niece, Melanie McKay of Woodward, OK.
A celebration of Jo’s life will be held at 2 PM on Saturday, November 21, 2020, in the Tupelo Chapel of Holland Funeral Directors. Due to COVID-19, no formal visitation will be held. Please wear masks and practice social distancing.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Jo Miller Orr Scholarship Fund at CREATE, Inc., PO BOX 1053, Tupelo, MS 38802.