Stephen L. Deeble, 66, a professional musician and educator, dies

Stephen L. Deeble, a professional singer, musician and educator who was known for his love of wordplay and puns, died Oct. 17 of frontotemporal degeneration, a rare brain disorder related to Alzheimer's disease, at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

The longtime Kingsville resident was 66.


The son of Burl Ivan Deeble, a machine shop owner, and Beryl Alice Doane Deeble, a secretary, Stephen Lee Deeble was born in Baltimore and spent his early years in Aero Acres in Middle River before moving with his family in 1955 to Hydes.

A 1967 graduate of Perry Hall High School, where he played baseball and wrestled, Mr. Deeble continued his education at what is now Towson University. He initially studied political science, then changed his major and earned a bachelor's degree in 1972 in music education.

Mr. Deeble continued to study voice with Ruth Drucker, and piano with Arno Drucker and Reynaldo Reyes.

"He had an incredibly beautiful tenor voice, and was a fine pianist who expected perfection of himself," said his wife of 33 years, the former Lillian McAllister, a patient access specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Some of the groups he performed with during the 1970s and 1980s included the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Pro Musica Rara, Baltimore Opera, Comic Opera of Baltimore, Harford Opera and the Baltimore Singers.

Mr. Deeble also sang professionally as a tenor at St. David's Episcopal Church in Roland Park and Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church in Bolton Hill, and was a cantor at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Har Sinai Congregation.

"Steve and I sang together at St. David's years ago, and we became very good friends and have remained so for years," said David C. Bielenberg, former executive director of the Association of Lutheran Musicians, who is now administrative manager of the Bach in Baltimore concert series.

"His had a pretty remarkable tenor voice, which was very smooth and pure as well," said Mr. Bielenberg. "I always enjoyed singing with him professionally and as an amateur."

Jack Shaum, a retired WBAL-Radio anchor and reporter who was also a choir member at St. David's, called Mr. Deeble "a consummate musician who was thoroughly dedicated to his craft."

"I was impressed with his beautiful voice and the sensitivity he brought to each composition," said Mr. Shaum.

Mr. Deeble had been organist and music director at Fairview United Methodist Church in Phoenix, Baltimore County, and at Fork United Methodist Church in Fork.

In 1975, Mr. Deeble established a private practice teaching music. He continued giving lessons to 80 to 100 students a week until shortly before his death.

"He created his own, highly regarded private teaching business, where many students of all ages gained a great love of music. His students ranged in ages from 5 through 90," said his wife.

"He delighted his students with his jolly sense of humor, composing clever little songs to help them learn, rhymes to help them memorize and a passion to share his deep appreciation of music," she said.


During the 1990s, he taught private lessons for students at the Community College of Baltimore County's Essex campus. He also taught at the Harford Center in Havre de Grace from the late 1990s until the early 2000s, instructing disabled adults.

"He was appreciated for his fine teaching techniques, his low pressure and comfortable recitals. He loved his students and received great joy working with them each week, and was beloved by them in return," said Mrs. Deeble.

Mir. Deeble had two grand pianos and an electric keyboard in his home, as well as a library of 10,000 books, his wife said.

In addition to English he spoke five languages fluently — Italian, German, French, Spanish and Latin — then added Mandarin and Cantonese to his repertoire when he and his wife traveled to China in 1999 and again in 2001. It was in China that they adopted their two daughters.

Mr. Deeble enjoyed studying words and wordplay, and was called by his family "The King of the Pun," while his friends gave him the moniker, "The King of Corn."

"He was light-hearted and he enjoyed humorous language and playing with words and puns — to the point it would sometime get exhausting," said Mr. Bielenberg with a laugh.

"There was truly never a sentence spoken that was not turned into the most clever and amusing pun you could ever hear," his wife said. "He was very comical and could keep you howling with laughter for hours, and groaning over his puns for weeks."

Mr. Deeble was always willing to help anyone who was in need, she said.

"He never hesitated to assist anyone when presented with an urgent situation. Cliche maybe, but it was true that he really never met a stranger," his wife said. "He brought the party into the room whenever he entered because his life's purpose was to share the adventure and fun that filled his life."

"He lived life to the hilt and was one of the funniest men I ever met. We always had lots of laughs together," said Mr. Shaum.

For the last 20 years, Mr. Deeble had been a member of Victorious Faith Fellowship, 106 Rock Spring Church Road, Forest Hill, where a celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his two daughters, Allison Evelyn Joy Deeble, 17, a student at the Harbour School in Owings Mills, and Leanna Michele Noel Deeble, 17, a senior at Perry Hall High School who lives in Kingsville; a brother, Charles Arthur Deeble of Joppa; and many nieces and nephews.