Monday, March 14, 2011

Dad Is Being Honored

My daddy won the Freedom Award!

Now, I know that to anyone not living in Kearney, Nebraska, that doesn't mean much.  But 'round these parts getting a Freedom Award is a HUGE deal.  Every year our fair city accepts nominations for people who have done outstanding work volunteering and contributing to the community and then winners are selected for various categories:  commerce, education, etc.  And this year, My Daddy won it in the Arts and Entertainment category.

My Dad is considered a local legend here.  A jazz musician all his life, he's entertained the masses in central Nebraska for the past 50 years.  Nightclubs, private parties, weddings, funerals, concerts, charity events, and everything else in between.  Other than being our own lil' celebrity though, he's lauded as one of the greatest, kindest men around; a real "salt of the earth" kinda guy.  He can't go anywhere in town (or the entire state) without running into someone who knows him and wants to stop and chat.

I'm so proud that he won this award, he truly deserves it.  And I can say that I had a little tiny hand in helping him do so.  Back in 2003, my old high school choir director, Mr. Wilson, asked me to help him write up a little bio on my Dad, as he wanted to nominate him for the Freedom Award that year.  He didn't win it that year, and Mr. Wilson let it go.  Fast forward to January 2011 and Mr. Wilson contacted me again saying he was going to try again, and could I write an updated bio to be handed in with the submission.  I also provided him with a list of prominent people in the city whom he could contact who would be more than glad to nominate my Dad as well.

Well, this time it worked and Dad was chosen in his category.  It's about time!  :)

If you click on the link above and read the newspaper article, Dad talks about being in the Air Force in 1951 and working up the courage one night (on his 20th birthday, no less) to ask the Air Force band director to give him a shot.  I actually have a photo that was taken of Dad singing with the band that first night (click to view larger):

That's him, looking shy and timid up on the balcony.  Here's a cropped closeup:

Two years ago I put together a slideshow of photos from his Florida years, set to a recording of him singing at a show that was recorded for a live radio broadcast.  If you're interested, take a peek at it!  You may not know my Dad, but you'll enjoy seeing the great 50's photos along with my Dad belting out a terrific rendition of "Old Black Magic."  



  1. Awesome Betsy! Your dad is one of the most AMAZING men I have ever had the honor of knowing in my life! I love and miss him as well as your mother so much!! You all were such a big part of my life growing up...and it really meant the world to me! Love you all! Congratulations Uncle Wes....Grandpa (Raymond) is smiling down from Heaven on you today!!

    1. Betsy and all:
      My name is Rick Houchin. My dad, Chuck Houchin, was in a band in Kearney called the 4 Keys. He played with Verle Straatman, Chris Christiansen and Jack Smaha for years until his death in 1974. He also played a ton of times with Wes, Ron Crocker, and many others. He toured with big bands from the age of 16 and was in the Army Jazz Band. I met Wes several times and have heard him play on numerous occasions, including my dad's funeral in Kearney. I read he is playing in Red Cloud soon and I may go to see him. I live in Blue Hill NE and am editor of the newspaper there.
      He truly deserves the award, and he is one of the nicest men I have ever met.

    2. Rick, thank you so much for commenting! I showed this to my Dad and he thanks you too. :)

  2. That's wonderful news, Betsy! Thanks for sharing the news and pictures:)

  3. That is so awesome!!! Congrats to your father and to you! :-)

    BTW, I saw this ad on my local Craiglist and knew you'd be interested (that is, if you don't know about it already!)

  4. Hooray! That's so wonderful - I loved hearing about your dad on previous posts and this is such a great way to reward him!


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