Motown executive and museum founder Esther Gordy Edwards dies at 91

(WXYZ) - Esther Gordy Edwards, Motown Museum founder and sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy has died at the age of 91.

According to her family she died of natural causes surrounded by her family on Wednesday night.

Funeral arrangements have been set. A public viewing will be held at the James H. Cole Northwest Chapel on Schaffer Highway from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 30. The funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. at Bethel AME Church on Saint Antoine on Wednesday, August 31.

Gordy Edwards was best known for preserving the original headquarters of Motown Records by creating the Motown Museum on the site of the former ‘Hitsville USA.' She was a Motown executive for nearly three decades.

She held a number of leadership positions at Motown Records including senior vice president, corporate secretary and director of Motown international operations. Gordy Edwards was vital in exposing international cultures to the Motown Sound.

Gordy Edwards was loved and respected for her work shaping the personal and professional lives of young, up-and coming Motown artists like Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Marvelettes, The Temptations and others.

She also initiated the Gordy Foundation, which today continues to fund scholarships that allow inner city Detroit youth access to education.

Thursday, the following statement was released by Berry Gordy:

"Today our family mourns the loss of our beloved Esther Gordy Edwards .

Esther Gordy Edwards was a top Motown executive, businesswoman, civil and political leader, who received numerous awards, commendations and accolades. She was the most educated in our family and was the go-to person for wisdom in business.

Whatever she did, it was with the highest standards, professionalism and an attention to detail that was legendary. She always came out a hero. Esther wasn't concerned with being popular. She was dedicated to making us all better—the Gordy family and the Motown family.

Esther turned the so-called trash left behind after I sold the company in 1988 into a phenomenal world-class monument where Hitsville started—The Motown Museum.

She preserved Motown memorabilia before it was memorabilia, collecting our history long before we knew we were making it. She nurtured and held it together through the years, protecting the Motown legacy for generations to come—which is only one of the reasons people all over the world will remember and celebrate Esther Gordy Edwards.

Despite my sorrow, I will proudly continue to honor and celebrate her. She will always be my big sister and she will forever live in my heart."

Motown legend Stevie Wonder offered the following thoughts Thursday:

"I'm taken back by the loss of Esther Gordy Edwards. She meant so much to me as a human being—she embodied the idea of never giving up. She was ever determined in everything she did, she was full of energy and her spirit will continue live on. She loved the idea of what we were creating in Motown.

She believed in me—when I was 14 years old and many other people didn't or could only see what they could at the time, she championed me being in Motown. I shared with her many of my songs first before anyone else. She was like another mother to me, she was an extension of that same kind of motherly love.

I'm in Washington DC right now celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King and Esther, who was also a friend of Coretta Scott King, without question will be celebrated here this week and weekend, and her spirit will continue live on.

When we lose someone, we often think 'they don't make people like this anymore.' It is my hope that younger generations and the world will know of her spirit and her pride in world culture."


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