A deep devotion to God and a thunderous voice that drove listeners to their feet propelled Tarrian LaShun Pace to gospel superstardom. A series of health problems cut her remarkable life short.
Pace, a founding member of the Anointed Pace Sisters gospel group, died March 21 of kidney failure after five years of dialysis and a lifetime struggle with weight and the diabetes that accompanied it. She was 60 years old.
A service celebrating the singer’s life is scheduled for 11 a.m., April 2, at Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral on 212 Riverside Parkway, in Austell.
The Grammy-nominated singer led a life beset with trauma but blessed with success. Those close to her say Pace coped with the former with as much grace as the humility with which she handled the latter.
Pace survived a divorce, the death of a young daughter, an esophagus-rupture that nearly killed her, as well as cancer, among other health problems. She also hit the Billboard Gospel chart multiple times, both as a solo performer and with her eight Pace sisters: Duranice, Phyllis, June, Melonda, Dejuaii Leslie, Latrice and Lydia. Duranice Pace died in 2021.
“I Know I’ve Been Changed,” a song from Pace’s 1990 debut album, “He Lives,” is widely regarded as a gospel classic. Moviemaker Tyler Perry wrote a musical by the same name, casting Pace in it and including her song.
The two remained friends over decades. In 2018, Perry bought a house for Pace’s ailing mother.
Despite Pace’s achievements, she never thought of herself as a star. She preferred the title, evangelist.
“She showed us how it was possible to love God, his people, and keep the mission at the forefront without being tainted by the industry,” said younger sister, Latrice Pace. “Record labels never understood her. They were always looking to the selling aspect. They thought she was crazy when she went in and said, ‘God told me what I should call this album. He told me I should use this photo.’”
“It caused her to lose some deals,” Latrice added, “but she was doing the will of the Lord.”
Pace never seemed to question her faith, even in the darkest of times. In 2001, Pace’s 11-year-old daughter, Xenia, died unexpectedly of an enlarged heart. The death sent Pace into a downward spiral. She moved temporarily into the home of her sister, June. There, said Pace in a 2014 interview, she listened to gospel music “24-7″ to help cope with her loss.
“While I was laying there, believe it or not … God said, ‘do you trust me?’” Pace told the streaming “When We Speak TV.” “And I was weeping. I said, ‘yes, Lord.’ He said, ‘if you trust me in this … accept it.’”
Then her own song, “Just Because God Said It,” started playing.
“I was through,” Pace said.
As a pastor’s daughter raised in a strict religious home in Poole Creek, Pace and her sisters were forbidden to see movies, have boyfriends, wear pants, among other restrictions.
“We even muted the TV commercials because of the secular music,” Latrice Pace said.
It was in that system that a family-wide problem with food and weight evolved. The sisters, minus LaShun, appeared on “Iyanla: Fix My Life” on the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2013 to talk about their weight problems.
In a May 2021 interview with another gospel singer, Audrey Dubois Harris, Pace lamented the difficulties of trying to get control of her weight and health. She described her congestive heart failure and having to be confined temporarily to a wheelchair. “Take care of your bodies,” Pace implored her listeners. “It is the temple of God.”
In her final months, Pace recorded and posted videos in which she preached, sang and held virtual communion with viewers.
While Pace’s death was a shock, Latrice Pace wondered if her sister knew her end was coming.
“Everyone gets the gravity of her loss, the devastation of it,” Latrice Pace said. “She was the trailblazer for this entire family. The only reason we are able to do what we do today is because of her. I don’t think people understand what the trailblazers have gone through to make it different for those who come behind them.”
LaShun Pace didn’t seem to think she was that big of a deal. In the “When We Speak TV” interview, she said: “I’ve never seen myself as a diva. I just wanted to sing. Man, I love singing.”
Along with her sisters, Pace is survived by a daughter, Aarion Rhodes, who is following in her mother’s musical footsteps.