August TrabertBy Maria Lorensen, Development Director

KEARNEYSVILLE — Buddy Trabert has sung at saloons, on a cruise ship, in churches and nursing homes. He even "almost” made it to "America’s Got Talent.”

"That was a long line I stood in,” he said with a smile.

On Friday, the 76-year-old’s final wish was to sing before an audience once more.

And he did so when Hospice of the Panhandle staff members gathered in the inpatient unit’s chapel to hear Trabert sing "10,000 Angels Cried” and "Go Rest High on That Mountain.”

"It was a little raspy, I apologize,” said Trabert, who suffers from chronic heart failure. "But maybe it was OK.”

For staff, it was more than OK. Many marveled not only at his musical talent ("I never could read music,” he said) but also for his tenacity in accomplishing his final goal.

"He is such a sweet man, and we wanted to make this happen for him, and with him,” said Hospice social worker Julie Sayre.

Trabert was admitted to the inpatient unit on Thursday and made his wishes known to staff shortly after admission. A quick announcement Friday morning guaranteed that he had a standing-room only audience.

Trabert, a Navy veteran and a retired retail salesman, was born in Pittsburgh, but moved throughout the country. A resident of Martinsburg for many years, Trabert most recently has been singing gospel tunes. And his audiences have included church groups, nursing home residents, patients at the VA Center, as well as attendees at private parties.

"He’s always loved entertaining and loves telling stories,” said Trabert’s girlfriend, Micki Funkhouser. "His favorite times have always been when he’s been in front of a crowd.”

Trabert said he spent years entertaining residents at Elmcroft, where his late wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, had lived at the end of her life. His wife, who died in 2013, was also a patient of Hospice of the Panhandle.

"He loves people, and has a God-given talent,” she said. "That’s why this (performing Friday) was so important to him. "

Trabert, who called himself "Martinsburg’s Wayne Newton,” has always enjoyed singing Elvis Presley hits as well. As he was warming up for the Friday performance, he belted out a few notes of "Blue Christmas.”

"Not bad, don’t you think?” he asked a visitor.

Trabert said he switched from "saloon singing” to gospel following his retirement from the U.S. Navy in 1977.

"I got down on my knees, and thanked God,” he said.

While he has many songs that he’s performed over the years, his all-time favorite is a well-known hymn – "How Great Thou Art.”

"This life…I am very grateful for all of it,” he said.