obituary: UMKC mourns death of Conservatory student

Roze Brooks

Desiree Hines, Conservatory student and community musician, succumbed to her battle with cancer in January.  Many have reflected on Hines’ contribution to the musical, LGBT and UMKC communities with smiles and positivity.

“She was like momma,” said Kalaa Wilkerson, Pride Alliance Vice President. “Everyone loved her. She said would do any and everything for us. I loved spending time with her, and she will be forever missed.”

Hines was diagnosed with a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer. In a previous interview with U-News, Hines was handling her diagnosis positively.

“Young people can get cancer too,” she said.

A native of Jackson, Miss., Hines had family scattered across the U.S. and had lived in many states herself, making friends and leaving a lasting impression wherever she went.

Hines’ Facebook wall is covered with posts from friends and family far and wide, expressing their memories and condolences.

“I got to work with Desiree when she was a work study for the UMKC Office of Development. She was working in my office at the time of her diagnosis,” said public administration graduate Reid Samuel. “Through the entire process, she was always incredibly upbeat and never acted defeated. I wish more people in Kansas City had the opportunity to hear her story, because she might be one of the bravest people I’ve ever come into contact with.”

Hines was a conservatory student with ambition to direct choirs and play the pipe organ. The Conservatory drew Hines to Kansas City, and she was thrilled about the opportunities that unfolded for her.

Hines’ years spent in Philadelphia greatly impacted the LGBT community. She sat on the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus Board, serving as the resident organist at Traverse Arts Project and helped organize the 2009 GLBT Arts Festival.

She was an equally impactful spirit in Kansas City. She worked at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown KC as the organist.

“I met her last year in University Singers,” said sophomore Daniel Beeman. “Before every concert, I would always sit with her before the performance and just listen. She had such a shining personality with such a contagious laugh.”

Beeman remembers entertaining stories about her favorite things: cooking and playing the organ.

“We would sit at Oak Street Hall together and talk about everything,” said friend Jerzy Gipp. “She made those late hours seem short. I am lucky to have met her.”

Hines could often be found in her campus home of Oak Street Hall offering weekly home-cooked meals to other students.

“I’m still in shock we lost her,” Beeman said.

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