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Best of the South 

The term "Best of the South" has categorized music, food, art, literature--most of life's finer things. It certainly describes Tim Kimrey, who passed away peacefully at his Chapel Hill home on Feb. 22.

I didn't get to know Tim until 2000, long after he'd retired from being a pastor, after he'd been confined to a wheelchair due to Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. His legacy of civil and human rights activism was something I learned about later. I met Tim because of Southern music and food. I'd joined the online group Guitartown, where non-music discussions occur frequently--and heatedly. In one post, Tim described helping his grandmother prepare Southern-style scrapple in his Raleigh backyard as a boy and continued with a poignant meditation on the precarious nature of the music business for the musicians and venues we loved. I first saw Tim when he brought a dish of scrapple to a party at one such place, Boo's Hideaway. I ate my first--and last--scrapple that night.

Tim also loved NASCAR. I moved to the South in 1985, and while I felt that I'd come home, I knew I could never be a Southerner. And I never "got" NASCAR. Tim once told our friend Carina, over the phone as they watched a race, that he loved "Phyllis dearly, but she's not one of us."

Tim was an intellectual and an artist. He had one of the best home libraries I've ever seen, and the paintings and sculpture upon which he concentrated in his retirement were both whimsical and profound.

But it was in his relationship to music and musicians that his gifts and Southernness combined. I attended many concerts with Tim, and glancing at his face was always a highlight--he would radiate joy. And when he started his house concert series, Afternoon Nap Productions, all of Tim's causes and interests came together. His home was an art gallery. His politics were visible--a poster displayed his early support of Howard Dean, and his comment at the a Kevin Gordon house concert in October 2004 was, "I certainly hope this is the last show I produce under the current administration!"

He opened his home to strangers who became friends through his love of music--Southern hospitality writ large, even to the pots of regular and decaf coffee for those who shared the evening with him. In producing Afternoon Nap shows, he progressed from fan to host to spiritual touchstone for so many performers and guests. Even as we mourn our loss, we celebrate his example of a life well-lived: his curiosity, enthusiasm, passion and humor will be a standard against which we can all measure ourselves. Tim makes me proud to be a (wannabe) Southerner.


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