The playful personality of Jason Britt contrasted with Dennis Battle’s reputation for being a man of few words, similar to the contrasting tones of the keys on the piano for which they had a shared talent.
Both were known for sharing their passion for music with the community but now the community is mourning their sudden deaths in a May 16 wreck.
Britt and Battle were in a vehicle with Kyol Allen-Gailliard, the 27-year-old son of the Rev. James Gailliard, senior pastor of Word Tabernacle Church, when the vehicle veered off the road in the rain and collided with a downtown building. All three young men were killed when the vehicle caught fire. Authorities have declined to comment as to whether alcohol was a factor in the wreck.
“We are not releasing any details regarding the wreck until the investigation is complete,” said Rocky Mount police Cpl. Mike Lewis.
With the funerals for all three set for Saturday, those left behind are recalling fond memories – often times that were set to by the gospel music played by one or more of the devout men of faith.
“My fondest memory of these guys was when they would assist or accompany me in a service,” said Linda Gilchrist, who is the aunt of Battle, cousin to Britt and great aunt to Gailliard’s two daughters. “They knew how to flow with me. I never had to ask them to play something, they just knew the type of music that would help me minister to the people.”
Battle, 21, was known to have a fondness for the Hammond B3 organ, while 29-year-old Britt gravitated toward the keyboard.
“Dennis loved the spiritual sound the organ made as it would go throughout the church,” Gilchrist said. “Jason loved how the keyboard would make so many sounds with the strings and the horns and the synthesizer.
“Both played so many different instruments.Music was life for both of them.”
Gilchrist said Battle and Britt enjoyed bringing joy to others through their music, especially at various churches in the community. With ministry and music strong in their families, both had plenty of stages to reach broad audiences.
It was the men behind the music those closest will remember, though. Gilchrist said Britt came into his own as a father of three – laughing and playing with his children.
“Jason was a great kidder,” she said. “He loved those kids to pieces.”
As the baby of the family, Battle was spoiled by his older sister and mother. He never bragged about the doting, but was known to be humble and meek.
“Dennis was not a verbal person at all,” Gilchrist said. “Most people remember that smile he had. He’d give you a ‘hmmph’ and a nod, and that was him.”
While grief has ruled the lives of those in Gilchrist’s family this week, faith has been strong as they’ve received prayer and support from many throughout the community.
On Saturday, each of the families will join with friends and strangers as the funerals for all three will be held. Gailliard’s funeral will be at 10 a.m. at Word Tabernacle Church while Britt and Battle’s service will be at 1:30 p.m. at Morning Star Church of Christ.