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Pete Krebs Story – JWF Musicians Emergency Healthcare Fund

Video by
Corky Miller video/producer David Lane editor/producer

By Claire Levine

It’s been nearly six years since a surgeon gave Pete Krebs a 50-50 chance of living beyond six months.

The surgeon removed the desmoplastic melanoma – an extremely aggressive form of skin cancer – and routine tests show that Pete is cancer free. But the memory of cancer is always with him. So is his deep gratitude for the generosity of the Portland community – and the peace of mind the Jeremy Wilson Foundation (JWF) brought him when he thought that peace was beyond his reach.

Pete has been making his living on the Portland music scene since 1988, when he played clubs like Satyricon in punk bands. He later played with members of the psychedelic folk ensembles Holy Modal Rounders and the Clamtones as well as other types of rock and Gypsy jazz, and he pursued an interest in roots music that started with his first trip to a record store.

Eventually, Pete became a Portland favorite for his classic country vocals and his danceable country swing bands. But in 2013, his career was short-circuited by a tiny pinhead-sized pain in the back of his neck.  After twice being told it was nothing, a third doctor visit led to a biopsy – and a melanoma diagnosis.

Following the surgery came a period of physical recovery – and a wait to learn if the cancer had spread. Meanwhile, Pete wasn’t working and didn’t know when he would return to the stage. A family member sent an email letting the community know that Pete needed financial help. “Almost immediately, various musical communities started organizing benefits,” Pete said. The Decemberists and members of Black Prairie put on a big fundraising show, as did the Laurelthirst Public House and the swing dance community.

Pete said, “Looking back, I realize I wasn’t really present for any of this.” He was in a fog of worry and fear that made it impossible for him to focus on day-to-day events, let alone on paying bills.

“Imagine having a migraine headache, receiving an eviction notice and your partner telling you she’s leaving all in one day.” Pete said that’s the kind of stress and confusion that accompanies a cancer diagnosis.

As soon as the fundraising plea went out, Jeremy Wilson stepped in to offer help from the foundation that bears his name. JWF is an all-volunteer organization based in Portland that helps career musicians facing a medical crisis.

In addition to helping raise money, JWF made sure the funds were used in the way most helpful to Pete. “They paid my mortgage and they paid my grocery bills and all the utilities. And if I needed someone to buy groceries or help in other ways, they arranged that, too.”

The foundation pays vendors directly, rather than giving it to the musicians. This protects the artists from increased tax liability or loss of benefits, like Social Security Disability, they might be eligible for. “JWF allowed me to focus on the big picture, the big problems. You need to have the space to experience what’s happening to you directly, and that’s one of the big gifts I received from the foundation.”

It was many months before Pete was able to return to a full performance schedule. During that time, the foundation was there to make sure Pete could stay in his home and pay his bills. And Jeremy continued to check in with Pete even after he started playing, just to see if he needed anything.

“Musicians’ work has a public service aspect: we strengthen the community and we hope that our music makes people happy.  But most of us don’t have a safety net. We don’t have retirement plans or savings, and we’re lucky if we can make the monthly payment for health insurance,” Pete said.

For Portland musicians, that safety net is often JWF. It has distributed nearly $500,000.00 to musician and their families in Portland and Clark County. You can help the foundation expand its support by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Jeremy Wilson Foundation 501(c)3 by sending a check to Jeremy Wilson Foundation, 1028 SE Water Ave., Suite 230, Portland, OR 97214, or visiting thejwf.org.

Your support makes music!

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Bobby “Soxx” Petersen “All-encompassing love”

By Claire Levine

Bobby “Soxx” Petersen never lost his will to live. But early on in his illness he lost his music.  And that may have been the most heartbreaking aspect of Bob’s fight with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

It was the music that enriched Bob and Teri’s lives during the last year and a half of his life. Support from volunteers at the Jeremy Wilson Foundation (JWF) and financial help from the Musicians Emergency Healthcare Fund kept Bob connected to his friends and his favorite music, as well as the material things that made his final months a little easier.

The technical name for Bob’s illness is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Its common name comes from revered first baseman Lou Gehrig, known as the Iron Horse for his strength and stamina, whose career was cut short by ALS.

Bob was diagnosed with ALS in early 2016. But Teri learned later that he had been struggling for months. A stellar guitarist with a lifelong love for the instrument, Bob had been able to play only the drums for months. The small muscles in his fingers were one of the first casualties of ALS.

Teri said, “It’s devastating, because it takes away control of your voluntary muscles – the ones that let you move, speak, swallow and breathe. Your senses and creativity remain, but they’re trapped inside.” To the end, Bob’s intelligence and humor showed through.

When Bob’s motor skills started to slide, so did the family’s income. Teri cut back on work to care for Bob, so even less money was coming in. And where they had once grown much of their own food, their gardening time grew limited, and they had to spend more money at the grocery store.

Jeremy Wilson and Bob had been friends from “the Satyricon days” and through eastside venues including the Laurelthirst, as members of Portland’s close-knit rock world. “It doesn’t matter how much time goes by,” Teri said, “they are all members of a big family.”

So it was a natural that Jeremy, JWF, and the entire community would step up.  And as all recipients say, the gift of the foundation was more than just about money.

“I was able to get a small grant through the ALS Association, and it was helpful, but it didn’t mean as much as Jeremy’s help. Through JWF, we had the backing of an entire extended family. It was a godsend.

“They were immediately responsive and sincerely dedicated to doing whatever they could,” Teri said.

JWF paid for groceries, rent and basic supplies. Eventually they arranged for Bob to have a hospital bed and equipment to help him breathe easier as his muscles failed him.

Teri is grateful for the continued presence of Melanie Bobbett, a social worker who specializes in connecting people with long-term illnesses to public and private financial help. And one of the most important contributions was JWF’s help keeping people informed of what was happening.

“There were friends, collaborators and even family from across the country that we hadn’t seen in years. JWF volunteers spread the word – not only to get us financial assistance, but to make sure that people who wanted to spend some personal time with Bob had the chance,” Teri said.

Teri had to start scheduling visits because so many people wanted to talk, laugh and play music with Bob when he couldn’t leave the house.

“It was such a comfort to know that we could rely on Jeremy and the foundation. He would always call, even if it was just to check in.”

As the disease progressed, Bob had a desire to mix down some songs that he had been working on in the “Three Owls” home studio. He also wished to explore his thoughts about spirit, soul and afterlife with his fellow musician and good friend Kevin (Bingo) Richey. JWF arranged for Bingo to fly up from Southern California to help Bob compile the recordings while exploring the metaphysical questions that had become most important to him.

For Teri, “It was such a relief to us both, it was palpable.”

“The people who live in a world of art and music are different from most of us. Many people just clock in and out of a day job. For musicians like Bob, their occupation is also an all-encompassing love, the sum of their lives, all day, every day, awake and asleep.” It’s never about the money. But it is about friendship and love and commitment as much as it is about the notes they create.  

The Jeremy Wilson Foundation and the Musicians Emergency Health Care Fund recognize the material sacrifices many musicians make to pursue their craft. They also build on that unique bond among musicians themselves and the community they have enriched with their gifts.

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Scott McCaughey – Return of the Hoople

by Claire Levine

From his home in the Pacific Northwest, Scott McCaughey has contributed to some of the most important musical trends of the last 35 years. He has performed with some of the best-known names in alternative rock. And he has a huge network of fans and collaborators in Oregon and around the globe.

But none of that protected Scott and his wife, Mary Winzig, from the possibility of financial devastation when he got sick in November 2017. Insurance couldn’t come close to covering hospitalization for a nearly fatal stroke. Then followed months of rehabilitation and lost income.

One of the first things he was able to say on regaining consciousness in ICU after the stroke was, “No concerts, fundraisers, no GoFundMe sites.” But Mary told him it was already too late: The community had rallied instantly, and funds were accumulating, well before Scott left the hospital.

Help the Hoople Concert Jan 5 2018

Help The Hoople Benefit for Scott McCaughey Night #1 Jan 5, 2018

Support culminated in two fundraising concerts within two months of Scott’s stroke — raising well over $100,000 to help with their expenses. One of the best parts was that Scott was able to play a few songs on bass onstage at the Star Theater benefit.  “Seeing so many friends performing amazing music to help me out was just overwhelming to me.”

And his friends are a Who’s Who of rock: Mike Mills, Bill Berry and Peter Buck of REM; Alejandro Escovedo; Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney; James Mercer of the Shins; Chris Funk of the Decemberists, and many more from Portland and elsewhere.

Community members asked The Jeremy Wilson Foundation for help to hold an online fundraiser. Musicians from across the country offered prized items — like guitars donated and signed by Pearl Jam and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, along with his cohorts Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn of Uncle Tupelo.  One of Scott’s rock ’n’ roll heroes, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, contributed a harmonica!

The outpouring of contributions was organic — once people heard what happened, they donated what they could.

But what takes more deliberate action is handling the money: keeping track of the contributions, prioritizing bills and purchases, navigating out-of-pocket costs.

Help the Hoople Concert Jan 6 2018

Help The Hoople Benefit for Scott McCaughey Night #2 Jan 6, 2018

And that’s where the foundation plays its most important role: taking care of the daily tasks that can seem 

overwhelming during a time of illness and recovery. JWF let Scott concentrate on healing, and let Mary concentrate on Scott.

Here’s how the foundation works. They set up a trust fund for the musician. They arrange monthly payments for housing, utilities and groceries. They keep in touch with the family about out-of-pocket medical costs, unexpected expenses and other needs.

As Scott worked to regain his skills (the guitar muscle-memory came back relatively quickly, but the stroke wiped clean his memory for words), he wasn’t focusing on day-to-day tasks. He said he was basically kept unaware of all the things that Mary, Peter Buck and others did to inform the community, raise money and keep life on track.

Even now, when he is able to perform and tour again, he is happy to know that the foundation takes care of the things he can’t focus on. “I just throw the bills into a bag hanging on the doorknob. Once a month they find their way to the foundation,” which takes care of them.

Scott said, “The problem of musicians paying for health care has been obvious for such a long time. I’ve had so many friends who were ruined financially by a health care crisis.

“So, when Jeremy started this up, I was all for it and was glad to help. But I never thought it would come back to help me in this amazing way. It’s great to know the foundation is there, not just for me, but all my friends and other musicians who need it.”

For Jeremy, too, the foundation is just one big “will the circle be unbroken” experience.

Jeremy has abundant personal gratitude for Scott, who was Jeremy’s musical inspiration long before they met. He credits Scott with discovering Jeremy’s band Dharma Bums and producing their first album.

Because of the community’s enthusiastic response to a call for help, Jeremy said the foundation was able to do its best work — that is, respond to requests as soon as the bills start hitting. With so much grassroots fundraising, “I was able to have the bills paid within a few hours.”

Jeremy echoes the collective relief of the music community when he says, “We’re so blessed that Scott’s ok today, that he’s made a comeback like nobody I’ve ever seen.

“And the music is the magical doorway to his recovery. Practicing guitar-playing hand movements and recovering lyrics was his therapy — and apparently the best therapy there is.”

Jeremy said Scott is recovering in the same way he has lived the rest of his life: “He’s stunning us with his brilliance and his love.”

JWF Musicians Emergency Healthcare Fund




We never imagined the JWF would grow into the organization it is today.  A recurring monthly donation of $10, $20 or whatever amount you can afford has the greatest impact on our foundation. Your generosity will help us take the next step towards our goal of establishing a 3-million-dollar endowment fund within the next few years. We hope you will make a one time or recurring donation today.

Your Support Makes Music!

 

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JWF Founder’s Story Video

As part of the JWF 2018 End of Year Fundraising drive. Jeremy Wilson shares his story of how JWF Musicians Emergency Healthcare Fund came about.

We never imagined the JWF would grow into the organization it is today. A recurring monthly donation of $10, $20 or whatever amount you can afford has the greatest impact on our foundation. Your generosity will help us take the next step towards our goal of establishing a 3-million-dollar endowment fund within the next few years.

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Your Support Makes Music!

 

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