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Bill Gaither's Surprise 80th Birthday Party
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Our iconic and much-loved patriarch of the Gaither Homecoming crowd, Bill Gaither, celebrated his 80th birthday on March 28, 2016. Planning for a quiet dinner out with his family, Bill was surprised when he and Gloria walked into their son Benjy's home and were greeted by a resounding "Surprise!" Their children had planned the secret soirée, and Bill spent a wonderful evening surrounded by family and friends, laughing, hugging, sharing old stories ... and, of course, singing.

Homecoming columnist and longtime Gaither family friend Sue Buchanan shares a few impressions from the evening: "Sitting knee to knee with girlfriends like Vonnie Wright and talking about the history of us ... the connectivity of us all. Seeing the thought that Suzanne, Amy, Melody and Benjy put into it ... two fires burning outside. Bill with every possible emotion from surprise, to tears, to glee during the music. Absorbing the camaraderie and knowing how genuine the relationships are ... not just performance buddies. Nobody seemed to eat much, like they feared missing a conversation or connection. The atmosphere was alive!"

Also at the party were several members of the Isaacs family, including Sonya Isaacs Yeary. She reflects, "It's not every day, or every year for that matter, that you get to go to an 80-year-old's birthday party! Especially that of Bill Gaither, the legend himself! The thing about Bill is that he can out-sing, out-talk, out-joke and out-walk most of us half his age! It was an honor to be at his big 80th celebration!"

She continues, "I think Gatlyn my 3.75 month old got the award for the youngest one there ... and I'm pretty sure Bill won the oldest. ;) He just loves babies. And Gatlyn got to see his namesake Larry Gatlin again at the party. A sweet moment!"

Tori Taff reports, "My favorite moment was, of course, the stunned look on Bill's face, followed immediately by the sweetest blinky, teary, 'I can't even speak right now' expression you've ever seen! And watching him beam with delight while he patted his tummy in time to the music during the sing-a-long (WHY does he do that?!) was a highlight, too!

Angela Primm adds, "I want it to be noted that Bill made everyone feel soooo special. He was surprised, and yet in his eyes you could see him begin to immediately work the crowd so that no one felt left out or unappreciated. It became his goal to touch everyone!! However, I believed he rubbed me the most!! Sorry friends ... I'm just saying! Lol! No, he rubbed me because I was rubbing and holding him and appreciating the gift God has so graciously given us in the man of William Gaither. He says to me all the time, 'I don't feel like I'm doing enough,' when we all know he always goes beyond! What a wonderful evening to experience all the greatness in the room. My goal was trying to get on top of the piano to sit and sing! Bill encouraged me to do it and sing some jazz, and I wanted to, but didn't quite make the 'lift.' An evening I'll never forget!"

Here are a few photos to capture the celebration ... enjoy!