A hometown girl who became a national celebrity on stage and radio (way before TV) will be laid to rest Saturday morning in the family plot at Gadsden’s Forrest Cemetery following a service at First United Methodist Church honoring her life and legacy.
Marian Hughes Bahr, a resident of Logan, Utah, in recent years, died Jan. 9, a few months shy of her 102nd birthday.
Bahr was born in 1920 in the front room of the family home at 1016 Forrest Ave., which was her father's medical office and today is again a physician's office.
She began studying piano, at age 6, with her aunt as a teacher, and set her sights on a career in music. She graduated from Gadsden High School and earned membership in the National Honor Society as a senior.
Bahr, a coloratura soprano, graduated from the Alabama College for Women (now the University of Montevallo) in 1941, earning bachelor's degrees in both voice and piano, and earned a master's degree in voice from Kent State in Ohio. She also studied with the Philadelphia Opera Company and at the Julliard School of Music in New York.
Supporting herself as a "Powers Model" with the famed John Roberts Powers Agency, she moved from local radio and stage productions to grand and light opera, oratorio, radio, recital and television performances on stages from Carnegie Hall across the U.S. to Canada, the Caribbean, Hawaii, South America, the South Sea Islands.
She performed with a variety of opera companies and was listed in "Who's Who in Music."
Labeled "The Alabama Thrush," Bahr sang with USO groups as they fanned out across the country selling war bonds.
She met Edward Bahr, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s executive manager of operations in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands while performing opera in Puerto Rico, and they eventually were married.
He later was transferred to Goodyear headquarters in Akron, Ohio, where the Bahrs raised their family.
Bahr recorded only one album, "With Joy and Singing," a collection of hymns, for the Summit label in 1964.
The liner notes of that album read: “A busy artist, Marian Hughes Bahr finds time to sing for Christian conferences, gives frequent sacred concerts, secular recitals and appears with symphony orchestras.”
They related how she had considered becoming a missionary before choosing a musical career — how she trusted Christ as her Savior at an early age and the burden she received “for those who know Him not and gave her a new perspective on life lived through His power” while attending a Billy Graham Crusade in New York.
The liner notes referenced Psalm 40:3: “And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.”
Bahr is survived by a daughter, Valerie Hughes Byrnes (Michael) of Providence, Utah; and grandson, Joseph Byrnes (Natalie) of Bend, Oregon.
Visitation is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday prior to an 11 a.m. service at First United Methodist, 115 S. Fifth St. That church was built on land donated by her great-grandfather, Gabriel Hughes, a co-founder of the city of Gadsden.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Marian Hughes Bahr obituary