Church in South End recalls Donna Summer

Star’s voice once rang out in choir at Grant AME

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Congregants at Grant AME Church remembered “Sister Summer’’ at the service on Sunday. Donna Summer remembered her roots, keeping her church tithes and regularly sending financial support.

It has been years since her voice filled the vaulted sanctuary at Grant AME Church in the South End, but Donna Summer’s name still rang out Sunday for many in the congregation who remembered her as “Sister Summer.’’

From the pulpit and in the pews, Summer was remembered as a kind woman whose fame never clouded her memory of the church.

“I can just imagine her singing in the choir like all the other children here,’’ said the Rev. Ellis I. Washington.


The congregation has plans to honor her with a memorial service, but a date has not been set, Washington said.

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Summer died of cancer Thursday in her second home in Naples, Fla., at age 63. She lived with her husband, Bruce Sudano, in Nashville.

Despite the decades she had been away from Boston, she kept her church tithes and would regularly send financial support, Washington and others said.

Charles Pelote, 71, said he remembered when Summer first began singing in church as a young girl. He recalled her transition to professional performing, which he said was helped by her years singing hymns and gospel tunes at Grant AME Church.

“I think she got the confidence here,’’ Pelote said. “We always loved her, and obviously she had us in mind.’’


George Gaines, an uncle of Summer’s, said most of the singer’s family are gathering in Nashville for a Wednesday service and were not available to comment.

Alvin Terry, 56, the drummer in the church band, said Summer’s music lives on.

“The music is a big part of what we do here,’’ Terry said. “The love of an instrument is a gift from God. You could definitely say that about Donna.’’

Matt Byrne can be reached at