Dean Rumsey will stand with his good friend Gordy Haluska one last time on Friday – to deliver a eulogy for a key figure in the Johnstown music community.
Haluska, 66, died Monday after a long battle with glioblastoma. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer.
Rumsey expects to meet many people – musicians and music fans, friends and family members – who share his love for Haluska.
“Gordy had an incredible talent for friendship and remembering people,” Rumsey said in an interview as he returned to Johnstown from his winter home in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
“I have never met a man who had so many friends. and this is a testimony from Gordy. And he always looked on the positive side of things – even through his illness.
Rumsey, 61, performed with Haluska in acoustic band Stay Tuned, taking local stages alongside Bo Moore and others.
The band formed in 2017.
The first show, Rumsey said, was at Little Anthony’s on Ohio Street.
Haluska last took the stage during a Dec. 15 show at Woodside Bar and Grill — singing her holiday favorite, “12 Days of Christmas.”
Moore recalls playing and singing Haluska’s beloved “God Bless the USA” at a 9/11-related rally at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Geistown — their last time on stage together.
“He loved playing,” Moore said. “I don’t know anyone who has enjoyed being in front of an audience as much as Gordy.”
Rick Cosgrove was part of the band Guitars Around with Haluska – alongside local musical personalities Walt Churchey and Sam Coco. Haluska and Cosgrove also performed as a duo.
Cosgrove joined Moore and Rumsey in sharing that he has never heard anyone make a negative comment about Haluska.
“I’ve had the pleasure of performing many gigs over the past 25 years with Gordy,” Cosgrove said. “He was one of the nicest people I know.
“Many know the musical part of Gordy. But we also spent time together sharing our Catholic Christian faith in prayer.
Cosgrove called Haluska a huge fan of the AAABA tournament and “all of Johnstown’s supporter”.
Cosgrove said he and his “guitar buddy” Tom Dellaquila visited Haluska last week.
“Our families go back to childhood and we loved reminiscing about the visits of young boys to Miller’s Barber Shop, where his father worked, and family fun at Stonycreek Lake. His passing leaves a void in our lives, not just as a musician, but as a beautiful human being.
Rumsey credited Haluska with “good business acumen” – managing group bookings and dealing with venue operators. They played in places around the area – taverns, churches, community centers.
He said Haluska was known for her “American music”. Each show featured a performance of “Hotel California” by the Eagles, along with Beatles tunes and often “25 or 6 to 4” from Chicago.
“Gordy had about 50 songs he knew, and he had all of those songs memorized in his head after playing them thousands and thousands of times,” Rumsey said.
Rumsey said Haluska started showing signs last spring that something was wrong. He would arrive late for shows, then play the wrong chords, slip off his stool.
After a performance in July, Rumsey insisted that his friend see a doctor.
“I said, ‘You have to go to the hospital, and you’re going today,'” Rumsey recalled.
Rumsey took his friend to the emergency department at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. Late at night, after a CT scan, they got the diagnosis.
“The doctor came out and told Gordy, ‘There’s a mass in your brain,'” Rumsey said.
Rumsey recalled that Haluska never wanted to have a tip jar available for cash during their performances. After he fell ill and was no longer able to perform, musicians brought out jars to collect donations – to help with Haluska’s medical bills.
“Gordy was like, ‘Dean, you’re my best friend.’ and I would tell him he was my best friend,” Rumsey said. “We spent so much time together. Every weekend, that’s what we did.
“It was such a memorable moment. I can say I will never have another partner like that, and I played with a lot of people.
Friends said Haluska never lost her sense of humor – even in the face of a fight for her life.
Cosgrove said that when Haluska started losing his hair from cancer treatments, he jokingly suggested that he and his “challenged-haired friends” should go on a local tour as “The Bald Eagles.”
“Even though the outlook wasn’t good, he kept a positive attitude the whole time that he was going to get through this,” Moore said, adding, “He put a lot of smiles on his face. many people.”
Rumsey said he was in Johnstown in mid-January and visited Haluska.
Their regular meetings involved health updates, lunch, some guitar strumming.
This visit was different.
“It was the first time he was like, ‘This is terminal, Dean. I’m not going to beat this.’
Haluska’s obituary states that he was born in Johnstown on January 15, 1956. He is survived by many loved ones.
He was a member of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church and was cared for at Johnstown Lutheran Home and Windber Hospice.
A memorial mass will be held Friday at 10 a.m. in Saint-Benoît.
Rumsey will be among the speakers.
“He will be greatly missed by the community,” Rumsey said of his teammate.
“He will be dearly missed by everyone he touched – and there were hundreds and hundreds.”
Chip Minemyer is editor and managing director of The Tribune-Democrat and TribDem.com, managing director of the Times-News of Cumberland, Maryland, and CNHI’s regional editor for Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina. He can be reached at 814-532-5091. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.