Nunc dimittis

March 31, 2020

Robert Hebble, 86, died February 17. Born February 14, 1934, he was a graduate of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, and The Juilliard School, New York, New York, where he studied with Vittorio Giannini and Roger Sessions. He also spent a year in Paris, France, in private study with Nadia Boulanger.

Virgil Fox appointed Hebble as his assistant at The Riverside Church, New York City, at the age of sixteen. Hebble traveled extensively as an organist, pianist, composer, and clinician throughout the United States, Canada, and Asia. Among many commissions and publications, his extensive choral and organ compositions included the dedicatory organ work Heraldings for the (former) Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California; Hoc dies resurgam to inaugurate the Trompeta Majestatis organ stop at New York’s Riverside Church; and A Symphony of Light, commissioned in memory of Fox, which Hebble performed in Paris, France, at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Other projects included Cathedral Tapestry for two organs and carillon, commissioned by the Crystal Cathedral for the twentieth anniversary of the Hazel Wright Organ, and Cathedral of Commerce, commissioned by the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ for the centennial anniversary of the instrument in the Philadelphia store.

Hebble was a member of the faculty of the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, and consultant to Carnegie Hall, New York City, in the design of its five-manual Rodgers organ. Hebble retired in 2003 as director of music and organist at First Congregational Church, Lake Worth, Florida, where he served for 21 years.


Jasper B. Sanfilippo, 88, of Barrington Hills, Illinois, died January 28. He was born on March 26, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, and was a 1953 graduate of the University of Illinois. After graduation, he served six months’ tour of duty in the United States Army. On July 14, 1956, he married Marian R. Fabsits in Chicago.

Sanfilippo took over the family business, John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc., in 1963 and led the company until his retirement in 2006. He was a passionate collector of steam engines, automated music machines, and art glass. He belonged to many organizations of mechanical music, including the Musical Box Society International, Automated Musical Instrument Collectors Association, the Carousel Organ Association of America, and the Coin Operated Collectors Association.

The Sanfilippo home in Barrington Hills, the Victorian Palace on the Plum Tree Farm, was expanded several times to house and showcase the collections of automated musical instruments, including orchestrions, music boxes, phonographs, coin-operated pianos, violin machines, dance organs, and calliopes. The music room (measuring 100′ by 64′ by 42′, complete with balcony and seating 350 persons) of the residence features a five-manual pipe organ, the nucleus of which is 1927 Wurlitzer Opus 1571 built for the Riviera Theatre of Omaha, Nebraska. With numerous additions, by 2005, the instrument consisted of eighty ranks and was considered the largest theatre organ in the world. A separate carousel building was erected for banquet-style fundraisers. The centerpiece was a vintage carousel, but the room also houses steam engines, vintage street clocks, a Pullman passenger car, and a band organ. The Sanfilippos combined their passion for collecting with their commitment to philanthropy by opening their residence to host charity events to raise funds for non-profit organizations, numbering in the dozens each year.

Jasper B. Sanfilippo is survived by his wife Marian, his children, John (Susan), Jim (Renata), Jeffrey (Rusty), Lisa, and Jasper (Laura) Sanfilippo, as well as 14 grandchildren and a great-grandchild. A funeral Mass was celebrated February 5 at St. Anne Catholic Church, Barrington, Illinois.