April 10

Jay Rankin
Sep 28, 2014 - 8:51 PM EDT
Last Updated: Sep 29, 2014 - 6:30 AM EDT

While undergoing treatment for cancer almost three years ago, Joe Perry started the Hospice Wellness Band to use music to help others with chronic and terminal illness.

“I had seen it from when I first volunteered at the Grace Hospital for chronically ill people who had dementia how effective the music was to just making them happier,” Perry said. “It didn’t last forever, but at that moment when you were playing, they were different—they were happy.”

Perry, not to be confused with the Joe Perry from Aerosmith, was inducted into the Windsor-Essex Music Hall of Fame Sunday night along with six other local musicians for their contributions to the community. He has also beat his cancer.

Born Oct. 2, 1956, Perry has a long history of helping others and using music to heal. His dad was a fiddle player who died when Perry was young. “Somebody handed me a guitar as a way to deal with the grief of losing my father at 15 and I just kept with it,” Perry said.

Perry’s education followed his passions. He took music therapy lessons while chasing his undergrad at the University of Windsor. Then he completed his masters in social work 30 years ago at Wayne State and has since worked as a social worker, striving to help people.

His path has allowed him to help many people in his lifetime. In 1998 he started Gilda’s Singers, a choir group part of Detroit’s Gilda Club, which is a cancer support society.

“He organized the choir, I’ll never forget that,” said Mary Lou Guida, a member of Gilda’s Singers. “I said, ‘I can’t sing that good.’ He said, ‘It doesn’t matter. If we all sing, it will be wonderful.’ And it was—it still is.

“There were so many people that he helped,” Guida continued. “When you sing, you don’t think about your problems or things like that.”

Now, Perry’s the director of patient and family services at the Hospice of Windsor and Essex County.

“Now that I’m with Hospice, I utilize music there for people that are going through a life-threatening illness or are chronically ill or they’re just trying to stay healthy to stay away from the doctor’s office, so they’re happier.”

The Windsor/Essex Music Recognition Awards event is held each year at Windsor Moose Lodge #1499 and raises funds for the area’s Crime Stoppers program.

“These are people that have taken their musical abilities to make Windsor and Essex County a better place,” said the hall of fame’s founder Ken Koekstat.

Last year’s event raised $2,500 for Crime Stoppers and Koekstat is confident that this year was just as successful.

The musicians inducted into the hall of fame on Sunday were: Dale Butler, Ollie Marcoux, Kevin Peterson, Bob Stephenson, the Scottish Society of Windsor Pipe Band and Bob Thwaites for The Diplomats Drum & Bugle Corps. Photos of these inductees will be placed alongside the portraits of about 50 past honoured musicians in Devonshire Mall.

“It’s nice to be honoured along with all the other great musicians,” Perry said. “Not so much our musical ability, but the charity work that we’ve all done over the years to try and support people that are going through a hard time.”

jranking@windsorstar.com or @_Jay_Rankin 

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tags: hospice, music, joe, perry