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Charles's Story

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Charles Russell McKinney, 91, formerly of Martha's Place in Greensboro, NC, died on September 30, 2017, at Countryside Manor in Stokesdale, NC.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 69 years, Bette Caudle McKinney, on June 20, 2017. He was also preceded by his parents, as well as his sisters, Beulah Kingdon and Elizabeth Lowe.
A memorial service celebrating the lives of Russell and Bette will be held in the Moore Music Performing Arts Center (615 West Market Street) on Saturday, November 25, at 5:00 PM.
Russell was born in Herndon, West Virginia, on June 27, 1926, to Charles and Ollie White McKinney. He grew up in Mullens, West Virginia, where he graduated from Mullens High School. He attended West Virginia University for one year, where he was a music major, playing trumpet and saxophone and singing tenor in a church choir. In 1945, he was called into the Army Air Force. While serving in Wiesbaden, Germany, he performed in military bands and acted as band instrument repairman.
He returned to Mullens, and in 1948, he and Bette were married. That same year, they moved to Indianapolis, where he attended International Barber College, and in 1949, they moved back to Mullens, where Russell worked in a barber shop with his father and two uncles and took a correspondence course for piano tuning.
In 1956, the McKinneys moved to Greensboro when Russell was hired to work as a piano tuner and instrument repairman for Moore Music Company. In the mid-sixties, he formed McKinney Piano Service, where his work included piano restoration, tuning, and repair. He retired from tuning at age 82. Over the years, he played in bands, sang in church choirs with Bette, and managed and directed the Russ McKinney Big Band, in which he played saxophone and trumpet. Before they moved to Countryside Village in 2013, Russell and Bette sang in the West Market Street Church Choir.
Russell's friends and family fondly remember his many stories about his experiences as a barber and piano technician, as well as his days in Wiesbaden, but most especially the stories about his neighbors and relatives in West Virginia. An enthusiastic raconteur, Russell had a great memory for details. Moreover, he and Bette always subscribed to the Mullens Advocate and West Virginia Magazine. Even though they loved North Carolina, they were, first and foremost, West Virginians.
Russell is survived by children Victoria Anne McKinney of Albany, Georgia; Jane York and her husband John, of Greensboro; and Rusty McKinney and his wife, Linda, of Holly Springs; grandchildren Elizabeth York and husband Josh Schwalbach, Kathryn York, and Rachel York; Nathaniel McKinney and wife Alex Woodgeard, Laura McKinney, and Abigail McKinney; and a great-granddaughter, Harlow McKinney.
The family is very grateful for the loving care both Russell and Bette received at Countryside Manor.
Memorials may be made to Greensboro Urban Ministry (305 West Gate City Blvd., Greensboro, NC 27406) or West Market Street United Methodist Church Music Fund (P. O. Box 870, Greensboro, NC 27402-0870).
You are invited to offer condolences or share memories at www.forbisanddick.com
Published on October 24, 2017
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