- Associated Press - Saturday, August 2, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - More than 600 people filled a Catholic church for the funeral of 103-year-old jazz trumpeter Lionel Ferbos on Saturday, and hundreds more waited outside for the jazz funeral parade celebrating his life.

“We gather to remember and to honor and to thank God for this man of faith - this man who deeply loved his own family and also becomes history - the oldest active jazz musician in New Orleans and possibly even in the world,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond said in his homily.

Ferbos, who died July 19, two days after his 103rd birthday, lay in a short coffin at the front of Corpus Christi-Epiphany Catholic Church, his grey fedora near a corner of his pillow.

At 102 he still practiced daily, his friend Ed Kennedy said in a tribute before the Mass. Kennedy recalled hearing one difficult practice about two months ago, a few weeks after what turned out to be Ferbos’ last job.

“He labored almost an hour to get the notes to come out,” Kennedy said. “But on that day they just wouldn’t. ‘I can do this,’ he would tell himself. ‘I can do this.’ He never got angry. He never got frustrated. Soon the notes began to emerge, and he sounded great. What an example of patience and perseverance!”

Ferbos also stayed interested in everything around him, Kennedy said. “When he was 101, he turned to me and said, ‘There is still so much I want to do - so much I want to see.’”

Kennedy, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Aymond all told of Ferbos’ life, including his refusal to accept a doctor’s word that athsma would keep him from ever playing a wind instrument, his Depression-era Works Progress Administration labor hauling dirt in wheelbarrows from the lagoons dug in City Park, and taking over his father’s sheet metal business and becoming a master tinsmith.

All said how fitting it was that his favorite song was “When You’re Smiling.”

“We will miss his kindness and his smile and his music and his many expressions of love,” Aymond said.

Jazz vocalist John Boutte sang “Over Into Glory Land” before the Mass, which featured as its meditation hymn, “Ave Maria” performed by blues and rock singer Deacon John Moore, better known as Deacon John.

The congregation applauded every performance and speech, including the archbishop’s homily celebrating Ferbos as a man for whom the important things in life were family, faith and perfecting and teaching the talents he had been given.

As mourners brought the coffin to an open wooden hearse drawn by two white horses, the Treme, Gentilly and Homecoming brass bands played “What a Friend we Have in Jesus” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”

The family was followed by the Black Men of Labor Social Aid and Pleasure Club in maroon slacks and bright kente cloth vests and suit coats, dipping and swaying to the slow hymns.

When the bands swung from hymns to upbeat tunes and the Black Men of Labor broke into a strut, the first song was not “Didn’t He Ramble,” which often opens jazz funeral parades. Rather, it was “I’ll Fly Away.”

People on the sidelines sang along.