- July 5, 2017
- By Staff / Baptist Standard
Charlie Worden Fenner, church musician and former missionary to Japan, died June 28 in Dallas. He was 87. Fenner was born Nov. 28, 1929, in Freeport to Grace and M.M. Fenner. At age 14, he began taking piano lessons and singing. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College. College music courses were free, so again he began to take piano and voice lessons. In 1952, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, and he served as an assistant chaplain in Japan. Upon completion of his military service, he completed a master’s degree in education and enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. During a Mission Day service, he publicly acknowledged his willingness to do whatever God wanted him to do. He served as music director for First Baptist Church in Allen, Okla., and then as assistant to the pastor of First Baptist Church in Daingerfield. When he talked about missions opportunities with representatives of the Foreign Mission Board at Ridgecrest Conference Center, he learned about a need for a teacher in a school for boys in Fukuoka, Japan. From that point forward, his focus was set. He was appointed in 1959, spent two years in language school in Tokyo, and then began teaching at Seinan Gakuin Junior High School in Fukuoka. When he served in East Texas, he met Joy Phillips, and they began a dating friendship. They rekindled their relationship when he later was on missionary furlough and she was director of Girl’s Auxiliary for Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas. After he returned to Japan, he wrote to her in January 1966, asking her to marry him. Taking a leave of absence, he taught at Gardner-Webb College in Boiling Springs, N.C., and they married Oct. 8, 1966. She completed the missionary appointment process, and they served together in Fukuoka until 1980. After she became executive director-treasurer of Texas WMU, he supported her ministry, serving as organist or pianist in churches and at various WMU meetings, and he led the Study Abroad Program for Seinan Gakuin High School. At Gaston Oaks Baptist Church in Dallas, he taught Bible study, sang in the choir, played the organ or piano, and served on committees. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Joy. A memorial service is scheduled July 7 at Gaston Oaks Baptist Church in Dallas. Music begins at 10 a.m., and the service follows at 10:15.