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1933 William "Bill" Earl Dees 2024

William Earl Dees

June 12, 1933 — January 6, 2024

William (Bill) Dees passed away on January 6, 2024, at the age of ninety after a lengthy illness. Bill, a beloved husband, was married for forty-three years to Dr. Pamela Dees. He was a devoted father to Tracy (David) Landrus and stepfather to Jennifer (Keith) Grabner. He had one grandson, Garrett (Michelle) Landrus of Phoenix, Arizona; three step-grandchildren, Ben, Nick, and Samantha Grabner of Ashland, Missouri; and one great-grandson, Jaxon Landrus, in Phoenix. Bill also leaves three loving nieces and one nephew in Texas, Christy, Debbie, Johnnie, and Rob Foster.

A life-long resident of St. Louis and a graduate of Roosevelt High School, Bill grew up in the glory years of Hollywood musicals, where he saw that the lead singer, like Howard Keel, Allan Jones, and Nelson Eddy, always got the girl—and were usually baritones. Active in school and church choirs, ensembles, and productions from the age of five, his family had season tickets to the Muny Opera, and always listened to the Voice of Firestone and the Bell Telephone Hour on the radio, featuring American opera singers such as Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill, and Eileen Farrell. These influences, plus inspiration from his teachers at Rose Fanning and Roosevelt High School, gave Bill a love for classical music, singing, and especially opera that guided and enriched his entire life.

A three-time winner of the Metropolitan Opera District Auditions, Bill trained at the Internationales Opern Studio in Zurich, Switzerland, the apprentice program for the Zurich Opera. He subsequently became leading baritone for the Swiss opera house in Biel-Solothurn, singing also in Burgdorf, Grenchen, Langenthal and Schaffhäusen.

As artistic director, writer, and baritone for the Bel Canto Ensemble, the Saint Louis unit of the national organization Young Audiences Inc., Bill and his group gave over five hundred performances of opera in schools throughout Missouri and Illinois. During his lengthy career he was also employed as a baritone soloist by numerous St. Louis churches and synagogues.

Bill appeared as a featured soloist with the Laclede Symphony, the Kirkwood Symphony, the Clayton Symphony, the Evansville, Indiana Philharmonic and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestras. In addition to his career in Europe, he sang with the Orlando Opera, St. Louis Opera Theatre, St. Louis August Opera, the Muddy River Opera, Mississippi Opera, and CBS Television Repertory Theater.

 After the age of forty, Bill enrolled in the music program at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in vocal performance. Subsequently, he taught voice as an adjunct instructor at Webster University, Lindenwood University, and Forest Park Community College, and was a full-time faculty member at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale where he taught voice and opera.

Bill maintained a private voice studio in St. Louis, where he taught young performers from Six Flags, and in Orlando, Florida, where his students were stars at Disney World. These included singers at the Mexican pavilion (Mariachi Cobré), the Top of the World nightclub, and the American pavilion. His students have been featured at the MUNY Opera and Opryland, on television programs and cruise ships, on Broadway and at the White House.

In addition to his singing and teaching careers, Bill was employed as a buyer for Union Electric, and as sales representative for several insurance companies, Sears, Ultra-Chem, and Allied Equipment. As a retiree, Bill became active in the Roosevelt Alumni Association, where he served for several years as the Hall of Fame chairman.

In celebration of Bill's lengthy and colorful life, a Memorial Service will be held on January 14, 2024, at the John L. Ziegenhein and Sons Funeral Homes - South County Chapel on Lemay Ferry Road in St. Louis, Missouri. The service will commence at 11:00 AM and conclude at 12:30 PM. 

As we bid farewell to William Earl Dees, let us remember him for his wit, creativity, and humor, and with gratitude for sharing his abiding love and talent for music, as both teacher and performer.

In lieu of flowers, the family appreciates memorials to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Donate now to St. Jude and help kids fighting cancer - St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (stjude.org) 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William Earl Dees, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Sunday, January 14, 2024

11:00am - 12:30 pm (Central time)

John L. Ziegenhein and Sons Funeral Homes - South County Chapel

4830 Lemay Ferry Rd, St. Louis, MO 63129

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