I meet so many people in the course of working on this blog and sometimes it kind of makes my head spin. Every person has their own agenda and reason for moving on to the next day. I do too, it’s what we do here in this weird thing we call life. Every now and again I meet someone who’s really unique and I feel lucky to have met that person and feel like getting to meet them and chatting with them, even if only for a brief little bit was a real gift. One of these people was Gene Farris, who entertained scores of people at Jim’s Steakhouse downtown. Below are some pictures of the two times I was lucky enough to be able to hang out with Gene in my MBIP travelings around town.
The MBIP blog was only 14 days old when I went to Jim’s Steakhouse downtown for a Saturday night dinner. I was really nervous back then, I had just moved back to Peoria and started this blog and didn’t know how it would all work out. I had a really good time that night at Jim’s and this was the fist time I met Gene Farris who was entertaining the room with his music and friendly conversation. I took his picture and when he took a break we talked and he told me about his life and it sounded like a real adventurous time. I told him I was a little unsure about moving back here and he smiled at me and said, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and I think you’ll have a good time.” I took those words to heart and felt like it was a good luck charm for me.
As you can see, I wasn’t the only one who made friends with Gene that evening! He had a whole circle of people around his piano and everyone, including me was having a blast. Gene was one of those people that everyone gravitated to. Some people just have a light around them that makes others feel warm and I realized that Gene was one of those people.
I took this photo and we shook hands and I told him I’d see him later. Little did I know it would be almost one year later that we’d cross paths again.
And this is a photo from that evening, a year later. Two friends of mine, Claire and Mick had traveled to Chicago from their home in Australia and made a special trip to Peoria just to see me and it was so nice of them. They were staying at the Pere Marquette and it was a snowy evening, so I told them we’d meet at Jim’s Steakhouse because I was working right down the street and we could all walk there. I was hoping that Gene would be there playing piano because I wanted to see him again and knew that Claire and Mick would love to hear him and meet him and sure enough, he was there and we enjoyed listening to him and chatting with him. He told Claire and Mick it was an honor to meet two people who had traveled so far to get to Peoria and they really had a great time meeting and talking with Gene. We had a wonderful night.
That was the last time I ever saw Gene Farris. It was almost three years ago to this date. Of course when I left I told him that we’d see each other again, but that’s not going to happen now. Gene Farris died last Thursday at the age of 78. He’s survived by his wife, Carolee and their children, Gina, Scott and Mark. Gene lived a full life and you can read about it here. He was a teacher, a band leader, a coach, a principal and a wonderful musician and entertainer. He touched a lot of lives in his years and I’m grateful to be one of those people who got to spend some time with him. He was a special person and he’ll be missed, but his memory lives on among the many people he touched in his life. I feel lucky to be one of them.