In the late 90s, Kennett native and singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow became involved with the Scleroderma Research Foundation. Little did she know that in a short time that disease, scleroderma, would claim the life of a long-time family friend, Kent Sexton.
Now Crow is doing her part to honor the memory of Kent as well as raise funds for the foundation through a limited edition CD.
Empowered by her strength
At a very busy time in her life, Crow was asked to play a couple of songs at a fundraiser for a foundation researching a little-known disease, scleroderma.
While at the fundraiser, Crow met the founder of the foundation, Sharon Monsky.
“I was empowered by her strength and determination,” Crow said.
Monsky established the Scleroderma Research Foundation in 1986 after being diagnosed with the rare, chronic disease.
“She was told she had less than two years to live and that she would never have children,” Crow said. “She ended up living 20 more years and had three kids.”
Monsky became committed to finding a cure. She created a foundation that networked research from scientists and doctors via the Internet in order to find a cure for scleroderma. The foundation is now considered the premier research organization on the scleroderma.
Crow describes the disease as a “very present disease that people don’t know about.”
Scleroderma usually affects the skin, causing it to become hard and thick. It can also cause the same reaction in organs such as the heart, lungs and kidneys. In some cases, the disease causes the body’s immune system to attack normal tissues in the body. More than 300,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with scleroderma.
Crow, along with others such as Bob Saget and Jason Alexander, are using their celebrity-status to bring the disease to the forefront and help those affected by the crippling disease. She began doing her part in supporting the Scleroderma Research Foundation even before Kent was diagnosed.
Something was wrong
When Kent first began show symptoms of scleroderma, doctors did not know what was affecting him.
“He knew something was wrong but no one could tell him what it was,” Kent’s wife, Viretta Sexton, said. “We thought it was lupus for a long time.”
He went to specialist after specialist. Then Kennett physician Lanny Geary suspected Kent could be suffering from scherloderma. Geary sent Kent to a specialist with a letter stating he might be suffering from scleroderma.
And it was.
Suddenly the disease that Crow had supported financially for years had a personal connection.
Crow began working to use her ties to the foundation to aid Kent in his battle.
After two years of Crow’s persistence, Kent agreed to see the nation’s leading specialists on scleroderma.
“The disease was at a point where not much could be done,” Viretta said. “But we felt better knowing we had seen the very best.”
A family friend
“I’ve known Kent since I was zero,” Crow said. “Our families have known each other for a long time.”
According to Crow, the families, once neighbors, share a lot of the same interests including a love of music and church families.
“They are well loved by my family,” Crow said.
According to Viretta, when her husband realized he was losing his battle with Scleroderma, he began making plans for his memorial service.
“He wanted Bernice (Crow) to sing at the service,” Viretta said.
But his wife has another plan in mind. She contacted Crow in September or October and asked her to sing “Be Still My Soul.”
“I never told Kent and he never heard it,” she said. “I couldn’t bring myself to.”
Crow was in the middle of recording her recent album “C’mon, C’mon.” The artist welcomed the break from writing and working on a new album to record the traditional hymn.
Crow rented a studio to record the piece for Kent’s memorial service. While at the studio, she worked along side engineer assistant Chris Reynolds. Reynolds is the son of Jim Reynolds, a close friend of both the Crows and Sextons.
“It really meant a lot to him,” Crow said.
The two listened to the finished recording and, according to Crow, it was an “extremely emotional” moment.
Viretta played the recording at the end of the Kent’s memorial service in January 2002. She immediately had people asking for copies of Crow’s version of the hymn.
She again contacted Crow.
“I asked her if there was something we can do,” Viretta said.
Right away, Crow began working on making the version available to the public. It took some time but the version became available on November 8, 2002.
The CD is available from Crow’s website at www.sherylcrow.com.
The proceeds from the single will be donated to the Sheryl Crow Fund in honor of Kent Sexton at the Scleroderma Research Foundation.
Although the website states it is a limited number available for purchase, the artist plans to make the CD available on a permanent basis.
“It is a traditional hymn that is timeless,” Crow said. “I’m going to keep it going with all of the proceeds going to the Scleroderma Foundation.”
Crow continues to remember Kent fondly. She recalls sending him a copy “C’mon, C’mon.”
“He sent me a full report, including a couple of opinions in it,” Crow said. “But that’s why you loved Kent. He told it like it was.”
“He is very missed,” Crow said.
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