Monday, November 1, 2010

Blind Rockford resident plays guitar in multiple bands, venues

Blind Rockford resident plays guitar in multiple bands, venues
The Rockford Squire - October 21, 2010

by Matt Marn

Rockford resident Keith Eadie was born blind. But blindness did not stop him from picking up a guitar and learning how to play. And it did not stop him from taking the stage, playing to proud family and excited fans.

“Sometimes I am walking around a store and I am stopped by people who heard me play,” Eadie said. “I get stopped in downtown Rockford or on the White Pine Trail. It feels pretty good.”

Eadie usually has a full schedule, full of performances for bands he regularly plays in, as well as one of the four bands where he fills in for an absent member. He plays in a variety of locations, from restaurants to churches and nursing homes to a local Rockford fire station and the Rockford Ambulance office, often performing four or five times a week.

“Last month, I played 20 days in a row,” Eadie said. “I love doing it, it’s awesome. In bigger places, you still get butterflies.”

As a kid, Eadie found secondhand “flea market guitars,” but when high school rolled around, he wanted to learn to play newer, more complex songs. He got his chance to sharpen his skills when a neighbor asked Joe Kelly, a local teacher, to get him started.

“He taught me scales and fundamentals, and showed me how to put it all together,” Eadie said.

As for Kelly, he is proud of Eadie and his growth on the strings. “It wasn’t real hard to work with him,” Kelly said. “It was obvious he had the ear and the ambition. Once he got his chops down, he fit right in almost everywhere.”

Kelly said they had to try something different, as Eadie couldn’t visually learn the fret placement or sheet music, but Eadie had good coordination, a good ear for music, and a good sense of humor to match.

“He had more of a desire to learn,” Kelly said. “It meant more to Keith than other students. And he’s not down in the dumps, he works through things. His personality helps him deal, helps him fit in anywhere.”

When Eadie’s family heard that he had an ear for music and could hold his own, they were thrilled. Eadie began to play in a gospel group with his aunt and uncle, performing around a dozen shows annually. Those shows got his feet wet, but didn’t fend off the butterflies, he said.

Now Eadie plays regularly at a number of venues, including Maxine’s Family Restaurant in Sparta every Wednesday evening, where local fans and friends fill the room to watch him play with his band, Keith and the Rowdies. The group formed about a year ago and includes Eadie and band mates Terry Winright and Bill Ridley. Friends come by their table before the show to say hello, and some even pick up an extra guitar and join them on stage for a number or two.

“I’m very proud of Keith,” said Karen Eadie, Keith’s mother. “He’s a good guy. He can play. When he practiced, my husband and I would listen. We’d fall asleep to his music. But when he knew we were listening, he’d shut his door. He’s always had an ear for music. He just loves to play. He’d sit and play if nobody’s listening.”

Gordon Pickerd - Trustee, treasurer, woodcarver extraordinaire

This article, first published in the Rockford Squire, details some of the many activities and volunteer work of Algoma Township trustee Gordon Pickerd. You can find the article here.

Algoma Twp. trustee Pickerd finds calling in getting involved, giving back
October 14, 2010


Gordon Pickerd wears many hats in his community, from Algoma Township trustee to Rockford Sportsman’s Club treasurer to woodcarver. No matter the method, he is always ready to help.

Gordon Pickerd shows off the carving he created for Algoma Township Hall.

For example, when Algoma Township grew from needing five trustees to needing seven, a friend suggested Pickerd run, and he answered the call to serve.

“I never thought I’d run for political office,” Pickerd said. “I hope when people look at what we’ve done, they see we’re doing the job the township wants.”

Pickerd said final decisions before the board lie with the trustees. “Someone has to accept responsibility,” he said. “If people don’t like our decisions, they come after us. Hard choices need to be made, not because I like it or because I agree; following the law is not always an easy course.”

Algoma Township Supervisor Dennis Hoemke said Pickerd is an excellent addition to the township board. “He’s done a great job,” Hoemke said. “He brings a good knowledge base to us because of his past experience. He’s not afraid to do what he needs to do after he looks into the issue.”

Pickerd, also the treasurer of the Rockford Sportsman’s Club for the last 15 years, said the treasurer must keep the books in order and, since the club is a charitable organization, log where all the donations go.

“I was at a board of directors’ budget meeting, and the treasurer at the time wasn’t prepared for all of my questions. After the meeting, a friend asked me when I was going to run for the treasurer position, and I told him next year. The person with the money has to be responsible for the club to run.”

A pattern model maker by trade, Pickerd’s career path later took other directions into sales. But when Pickerd retired six years ago, he was reunited with his first love: woodcarving.

“I’ve done a number of turnings,” Pickerd said. “I sold some, but I gave most to charities over the last five years.”

Pickerd said he has done woodcarving pieces to aid in fundraising efforts for the hunt for a cure for cystic fibrosis, as well as the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding in Rockford. He also does volunteer work for organizations such as the Equest Center.

Angela Taylor, office manager for the Equest Center, said while Pickerd is not as interested in riding horses—at least she’s never seen him ride—he is very interested in helping people.

“He came to us, he saw a need, and he took care of it. Without him, we’d be faced with issues we’d have to find solutions to. We just need to call him and he’s there,” Taylor explained.

Shelly Fox is the assistant equine coordinator at the Equest Center. Fox thinks “Gordy” is an amazing man. “He takes care of work here, and brings his own tractor, and uses farm equipment for our heavy lifting,” Fox said. “He and his wife donate to our organization, too. He donated to a new tractor—not the one he drives, he just knows we need it.”

He has also recently carved a piece for the meeting hall in the Algoma Township offices, bearing the township’s new emblem. The emblem is made of five different types of wood. Pickerd said as a trustee, he thought it would add to the appearance of the meeting halls.

Township supervisor Hoemke is impressed with Pickerd’s carvings, having seen some of them up close, including the Algoma emblem on a regular basis.

“He’s very talented,” Hoemke said. “These are gorgeous works. And he doesn’t do them to toot his own horn. He likes to be active; he likes to be involved.”

Pickerd was quick to quick to point out that none of his work would be possible without the love, support and encouragement of his wife Sharon.

But no matter what he is working on today, Pickerd’s reasons and mantra stay the same. “Find something you’re passionate about, and help that organization get better, become a better place or community. Once you give back, it’s hard to say no.”

Pickerd said not only does he care deeply about his community, but everyone should have a chance to give back. He said he cares less about leaving his mark than just helping wherever needed. He said he’d rather be remembered as “the guy that had the smile on his face.”

“I have been blessed numerous times, and now I have a chance to give back. Our country could use a few less greedy people and a few more helping people,” added Pickerd. “Just get involved. It doesn’t matter where. Young parents, get involved in school or Little League, or get involved in the city or parks department, or church, or help neighbors care for their yard. Heck, I’ll give them a list of a dozen places. There are always places that need volunteers to give a few hours. You become the blessed one that gets back.”