Christopher George Abell, an accomplished church organist and pianist who later became a popular disc jockey at gay clubs in D.C. and up and down the East Coast, died Sept. 24 at George Washington University Hospital from a brain injury caused by a fall. He was 56.
George Strausbough, Abell’s partner of 15 years, said Abell was born in D.C. and raised in suburban Brentwood, Md., and was the second of six children of John and Bernadette Abell.
Strausbough said Abell attended the University of Maryland before transferring to Catholic University, where he studied music on a scholarship. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s Abell’s skills as an organist and pianist landed him in jobs playing at many D.C.-area churches, including the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Strausbough said.
Beginning in the early to middle 1980s through the late 1990s Abell worked as a guest DJ in a number of East Coast clubs. He also worked as a DJ in several D.C. gay bars, including the Lost & Found, Tracks, Badlands, Mr. P’s, and JR.’s. In addition, Strausbough said Abell worked as a bartender at Mr. P’s. He was widely known as “DJ Abell.”
During his DJ days, Abell became an officer with the Mid Atlantic Record Pool, an organization that worked with record companies to arrange for DJs to receive the latest record releases from popular recording artists, according to Strausbough.
After being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS nearly 25 years ago, Abell participated in clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health, the Whitman-Walker Clinic and George Washington University’s Medical Faculty Associates, Strausbough said.
He also helped to organize benefits for AIDS-related causes and groups, including Whitman-Walker, Food and Friends and Brother Help Thyself.
Amid his many activities and job duties, Strausbough said Abell was dedicated to his family, including Strausbough’s family members.
“He and I, between us, had 15 nieces and nephews that were the joy of his life, including mine and his and everybody’s,” said Strausbough. “His family was everything to him. And his family took me in as a son and my family took him in as a son.”
In addition to Strausbough, Abell is survived by his mother, Bernadette Abell; his brothers John Abell Jr. and his partner Nancy Kimball; Tim Abell and his partner Kathy; Lawrence Abell and his wife Cindy Abell; his sister Julia Jones and her husband Jay Jones; his sister Jennifer Addis and her husband Bryan; his beloved nieces and nephews and many longtime friends.
A funeral mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7 at St. James Catholic Church, 3628 Rhode Island Ave., in Mt. Rainier, Md.