Family of ‘American Idol’ Star Asks Fans for Help

Willie Spence press conference

WPTV/YouTube "American Idol" alum Willie Spence's cousin, Sabrina Cooper, speaks at a family press conference

The family of Willie Spence is asking for help from fans to cover funeral expenses for the “American Idol” alum, who died on October 11, 2022. His grieving family held a press conference to express their shock over the singer’s fatal car accident.

Willie Spence’s Family Shares Grief, Starts GoFundMe Campaign

Willie Spence Sr., Willie Spence Jr.

WPTV/ABC/YouTube“American Idol” alum Willie Spence’s father speaks at a press conference on October 12, 2022

According to a preliminary police report obtained by Heavy from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, 23-year-old Spence, who was runner-up to Chayce Beckham on season 19 of “Idol,” was killed when his 2019 Jeep collided with the back of a tractor-trailer parked on the shoulder of an interstate near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

His family held a brief press conference on October 12 outside his grandmother’s Florida home, led by his cousin, Sabrina Cooper.

“Willie was our gentle giant,” she told reporters. “He had such a soft demeanor but a very, very powerful voice. When he opened his mouth and lifted the Lord in a song, many would just stop in their tracks to listen to him.”

As the singer’s dad, Willie Spence Sr., choked back tears, he said, “This is like a dream, like a bad dream.”

“I can’t explain how I feel,” he added. “All I know is I’m gonna miss him. I’m gonna miss his voice around the house.”

Cooper expressed gratitude for the outpouring of love from fans, saying that the family was realizing just how many people loved Spence and were grieving his loss, too. She announced the creation of a GoFundMe campaign to help the family cover funeral expenses and costs associated with Spence’s death. At the time of publication, the page had received nearly $4,000 of the family’s $50,000 goal.

Fans who donated shared condolences and favorite memories of Spence on the fundraising page.

One contributor wrote, “As an avid watcher of American Idol, the news of this death really struck me. Willie was far too young and talented to be taken so soon. RIP Willie and sorry to his family that this happened.”

Another commented, “Willie’s voice brought me to tears. I would watch his performances at times where I felt sad and needed joy. His talent was so big and I was so excited to see whatever was next for him. Sending so much love to his family and to all that loved him.”

Willie Spence Released Cover of ‘The Living Years’ One Month Before His Death

One month before Spence’s death, he and singer Briana Moir released their cover of the 1989 Mike and the Mechanics song “The Living Years” and an accompanying video of them recording the duet. The song is about communicating whatever needs to be said before a loved one dies and it’s too late.

On an Instagram post announcing their duet, Moir wrote, “Thank you to one of the sweetest humans I have ever met for coming together with me to help share this incredible message of positivity @williespenceofficial. Your voice and your presence are a gift.”

Upon hearing of Spence’s death, Moir posted a tribute to him on Instagram, saying she was heartbroken.

“What a special, bright light Willie was,” she wrote. “Kind, pure hearted and so talented. I am honored to have had the chance to not only work with, but also get to know and be around his beautiful presence. You will be forever missed sweet Willie.”

Spence’s “American Idol” castmates have also been posting heartfelt tributes to their beloved friend, as well as the celebrity judges. For instance, on October 12, Lionel Richie posted a video of Spence performing on his Instagram feed and wrote, “Your light will always shine in this world.”