Whitewater, Ind. - Some knew him as Richard, others as Rich. To his family, he was Wayne.
Whitewater native Richard, "Rich" Wayne Mullins kept his public life as a well-known Christian musician very separate from his family life. His death in a car accident Friday brought the two sharply together.
"Our condolences go out to (his fans), to those that he touched. We realize this is their loss, too" said his sister. "We know they need closure. We need closure, too"
Many turned out for visitation at Whitewater Christian Church, not far from where Mullins grew up.
Friends and fans have shared their grief through an Internet web site. The site had received more than 9,000 e-mail messages by late Tuesday, and the web page had had more than 93,000 visits.
Local Christian bookstores are sold out of Mullins' music.
While the fans mourn the man who brought them "Our God Is an Awesome God" and other Christian music favorites, his family will miss the man who played the piano so loudly they couldn't watch TV, the man who argued for the fun of it, who had a thirst for learning, who had a good sense of humor and a terrible sense of direction - the man who never met a stranger and rarely came home alone.
"When he was home, he was Wayne," said Mullins' mother.
"He wasn't famous to us," said Mullins' brother-in-law.
Framed album covers and record awards earned by the musician fill one wall in the Mullins family home. When his family gathered to talk about him, the remembered a son, a brother, and uncle - a man who ministered through his music. Their memories were shared with laughter and emotional silences.
"He never did anything halfway, no matter what he did," his sister said.
Take the time he decided to drive a car into the family farm's field. The memory of how he managed to do the impossible - get every tire stuck in a different hole - left the family laughing.
"He was the only one who could leave Dad speechless," said Mullins' brother.
"He thought it was his job to bring culture into the family," said Mullins' brother. "If he ate Japanese food and liked it, he thought you should eat Japanese food and like it, too."
Mullins once took his sister to eat bean curd soup.
"He couldn't understand how I could not want to experience bean curd soup," she said.
Mullins was always learning and sharing.
"He just always gave," said his cousin.
"Wayne literally saved my son's life," his cousin said. "About 2 years ago my son dropped out of college, he was struggling...somehow we figured my son could work for Wayne on tour. It just turned his life around. Our prayers were answered. Wayne had a vision for him and he gave him direction. For him to help my son that way, it was the greatest gift he could give me."
"The last time I saw him he gave me a book, and I own a bookstore. He had it in his back pocket. It was frayed and the corners were bent. He never visited me that he didn't bring me a gift, a cookie. That constant giving - it's just irreplaceable, it leaves a big void," his cousin said.
Mullins gave his sister hope when it seemed like a tragedy that her son was born with a cleft lip and palate.
"I was going through all of the emotions of a mother," his sister said. "He said, 'Don't take this the wrong way. I felt proud that God thought enough of my sister to give her a child that was going to need the love she could give him.' That gave me hope, just the fact that he believed in me."
"Whenever I get extremely down, I always listen to my uncle's music," said Mullins' nephew. Three months ago, at a concert given in Fort Wayne by Mullins, the two got to talk. "I said, 'Uncle Wayne, I don't know you very well, but there's some people that you touch through your music. I realize who you are now, your mission is music.' He said 'Thank you,' and gave me a hug."
"From the beginning, he was special," said Mullins' sister. "When he watched westerns, he would just sit there and bawl when an Indian would get killed."
When Rich Mullins was 4, he found a sure way to annoy his 6-year-old sister. When she'd practice her piano lessons, she said, he would come in and play with ease what she was working on. So she quit taking lessons. "How could I compete with that?" she said.
"Even his piano teacher had problems with him," said his mother.
He was a student of Mary Kellner.
"She would say, 'Now Richard, that sounds good, but you have to play it like it's written,'" his mother remembers.
"His music was in his heart, not on the pages," his brother-in-law said.
"He was at his best when he was in a room alone with a piano," his sister said. "He could make that piano talk."
"He could make it cry, he could make it sing," his sister added.
His siblings said they appreciated his talents and weren't jealous of them. Sometimes, however, they were jealous that they had to share him.
"It just hurt that the world got so much of him and we got so little," Mullins' brother said.
"He was always so humble. He didn't think he was special at all," his sister said.
Mullins' brother said his brother spent most of his time in the music industry trying to get out. He wasn't in it for the money or the fame, but the ministry.
"I think if he could have found a better way to tell people about Christ, he would have chucked it all," said Mullins' brother-in-law. "But that was the way he could preach. With the music, they listened to him. That was just his avenue."
Mullins' sister, felt the impact of her brother's success when she went to see him perform at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
"I saw the marquee, and it said 'Rich Mullins,' and it totally overwhelmed me, because that wasn't who I knew," his sister said.
After the concert, his sister saw what made Mullins different from other Christians stars. As he and Amy Grant left the buliding, a limousine was waiting.
"Amy got in the limo, and Wayne went around and jumped on the back of the equipment truck," his sister said. "That just flabbergasted me."
"He lived what he believed. In concert, it wasn't a big star up there, it was someone people could relate to," his sister said.
Mullins' brothers and sisters feel how they were raised helped make Mullins what he was. He paid tribute to his parents and his upbringing in the song, "First Family."
"He was a brother, but he was so much more than a brother to all of us," his sister said.
"He was just an extension of all of his grandparents, his parents," his sister said. "He has us all in him."
Copyright 1997 by The Palladium-Item
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