ELY – Gerry Mealey has been an accordion player for most of her life. During a recent afternoon concert at Carefree Living here, she said she gained an interest in the button box when she was just …
ELY – Gerry Mealey has been an accordion player for most of her life. During a recent afternoon concert at Carefree Living here, she said she gained an interest in the button box when she was just eight years old. Six-plus decades later she is still playing the accordion she received as a gift in the eighth grade.
Gerry doesn’t just play for others once in a while. She performed 98 times last year.
“I grew up in a musical family,” Gerry said, while she prepared for a recent concert at the Ely assisted living facility with her friend Cleo Bialke. Her parents, Hugo and Gladys Hellman, encouraged her and her brother to play music while they were growing up in Brimson.
“My daughter asked grandpa how much music lessons cost back then, and he said it didn’t matter,” Gerry said. “My brother got a Fender guitar at the same time I got my accordion. His grandson still has it.”
Gerry’s parents owned a country store and a bar back when she was a teenager. “We had to put on a little show now and then, and I remember that it was kind of embarrassing at the time,” she said.
Gerry’s own family joined in the musical family tradition after they moved up to the Iron Range. The boys played drums and the trumpet. “John started at age four,” she said. “People would do a double-take at seeing that kid playing the drum kit. He was pretty good.”
Gerry later joined the Over-the-Hill-Gang band. “It was for older guys, age 75 and above. I was only 49,” she said. “We had Kenny Shaw, Stanley Verbick Sr., Bob Kendall and me. We played locally and around Brimson. We played at the Ely Winter Festival one year. I guess we were together about 14 years. We played for Labor Day and Memorial Day picnics and deer season parties. My dad loved every party. Deer season parties were crazy with tons of hunters, but such fun.”
Years later, Gerry and Stan hit the nursing home circuit. “He played guitar. I would often times have my grandson, Logen, with me because I was babysitting him,” she said. “I had little instruments for him to join in and he played exactly to the beat. Sometimes he would take a little nap behind my stool, Logen, not Stan.”
Gerry lives in Babbitt and travels up to Ely every couple of week to play.