Dale Maxwell Stone Jr. found joy in his 24 seasons as the organist for the Atlanta Hawks and at least one season for the Braves.
Game after game, season after season, Stone would bang out music fitting the action on the basketball court. And if fans booed at the referees’ call, the ever-smiling Stone wasn’t above chiming in with a rendition of “Three Blind Mice.”
In 1988, then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris issued a proclamation, recognizing Stone as the Atlanta Hawks’ official organist. “Dale Stone’s enthusiastic performances in the Hawks’ games unite fans in rousing cheers, helping spur the team to victory,” Harris said at the time.
“He loved music so,” said Barbara Lord Stone of Buford, his wife of 21 years.
But he never learned to read it. He had a gift of playing strictly by ear.
“He could hear a song once, sit down and play it,” son Jeffrey said.
Stone once planned to take formal lessons. But the teacher nixed the idea — concerned it might “mess” with his natural talents.
Dale Maxwell Stone Jr., gifted musician and organist of the Atlanta Hawks from the early 1970s to mid-1990s, died March 30 of a heart attack. He was 78.
A service will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta.
Stone was born in Toccoa, raised in Rome and spent most of his adult life in Decatur, Tucker and Buford.
He was passionate about his Christian faith, family, the Georgia Bulldogs, the Braves, his alma maters — Darlington School, Georgia Military College, and North Georgia College – as well as his horse show friends, frozen yogurt and animals of all kinds.
He never had an email account or cell phone and never “Googled” anything.
“He was just not the type to get into the new technology,” daughter Lori Dalaine Stone said.
The family bought him a computer years ago, trying to nudge him into the modern age. It sat on his desk “like a big paperweight,” she said.
Stone was athletic, having played college football and baseball. He also loved swimming, tennis and running in numerous 10K races, half-marathons and the Peachtree Road Race.
“One time, he ran from Tucker to Stone Mountain” for a family gathering, son Jeffrey Stone of Bremen said.
Dale Stone passed on his love of sports to his children, coaching son Jeffrey in football and baseball and daughter Lori in softball. And though Stone loved the Braves – particularly first baseman Freddie Freeman – he always referred to Freeman as his “second favorite first baseman.” Son Jeffrey, who also played first base, was No. 1.
An office supply salesman by day, playing the organ was a beloved hobby. While in high school, he began traveling and performing at horse shows with his father, who was one of the first organists to play “Mighty Mo,” a 3,622 pipe M.P. Moller organ in Atlanta’s Fox Theatre.
Stone was still playing at horse shows across the country, playing at two in March and was booked to perform at another in the near future, his family said.
At the shows, the horses seemed to move in rhythm with Stone’s music, wife Barbara said.
“He never met a stranger, and he always had a big smile on his face,” she said. “It was the second marriage for both of us, and 21 wonderful years.”
Son Jeffrey said he cannot remember a time when his father was mad about anything.
“He never lost his temper,” he said. “He was the sweetest guy.”
One of Stone’s school classmates was the late Paul Goddard, bass player for the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Since her father was so talented, Lori said she often asked why he hadn’t pursued a high-profile career.
“My dad would always say if he had the lifestyle of a rock star, he couldn’t have been involved with his children,” she said. “He was a real simple, humble man.”
Stone’s survivors include Barbara Lord Stone of Buford; daughter, Lori Dalaine Stone of Cumming; son Jeffrey Dale Stone of Bremen; sisters Terri Whittenburg of Cartersville, and Diane Stone of Rome.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (stjude.org) or to C.A.R.E.S. (Cedartown Animal Rescue, Education & Sterilization), in memory of Dale M. Stone Jr.
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