700 Pay Last Respects to Blondie

Funeral Services

Photos and information courtesy of DEL RIO LIVE, Del Rio, Texas.

700 Crowd Paul Poag Theater to Pay Last Respects to Blondie

More than 700 mourners entered the Paul Poag Theater Wednesday Nov. 1, 2000, to say good-bye and celebrate the life that was Blondie Calderon's. He was a mixture of humor, music and zest for life according to his family and friends. His memorial contained all of those elements and seemed to be a fitting tribute to the gifts he gave family, friends and fans alike.

His casket was placed center-stage of the theater and surrounded by flowers. He shared the stage with the Val Verde Friends of the Arts grand piano. There was music, fond memories and tears during the tribute to a great member of the Del Rio community.

"Bob Kusenberger eulogized Calderon as a man of faith even though he did not attend church on a regular basis. "Lets face it. He was not an avid attendee (of church)&.The stage was his church, the piano his altar and his music was the gift given to the rest of us," said Kusenberger. "How fitting that we celebrate the passing of his life in these walls hallowed by music."

Kusenberger talked of the many gifts that Blondie Calderon was given and enjoyed during his life. He was given his music, his wife of nearly 38 years, Dolly Calderon, his five children and many grandchildren, and his public and private life.

The Scripture reading was from Ecclesiastes. There is a time and place for everything under the sun. The joy of family, the sorrow of loss. Kusenberger alluded to the Del Rio flood of 1998 that destroyed the Calderon home and business, Memos restaurant. He recounted Dollys perceptions of that time. The family rebuilt the home but waited a short while to decide if they would rebuild Memos. "She said that it did not feel like home until Memos was open."

He also talked of one of the daughters stories. Blondie would wake the family early in the morning with a bugle, occasionally, or he would call to the family early after a late night catering that it was party time. "What party, would reply a sleepy voice," said Kusenberger. "Clean-up party," was the reply. One daughter told Kusenberger that with all the destruction of the flood one thing that survived was that bugle.

Playing before the service was a CD recorded at the Paul Poag in late 1998 during Calderon's only solo concert. When the CD began playing and Calderon's voice took over the theater all was quiet and the crowd, which gathered to mourn him, took time to celebrate him instead. They listened to the story he told of how he learned to play the piano by ear. He said that he wanted to learn the piano so his father set up lessons for him. He would dutifully take the money for the lesson and promptly go to the Rita Theater (now the Paul Poag) and watch a movie, thus killing a few hours and then return home.

He said unbeknownst to him his father had run into the piano teacher and asked how his boy was doing. The teacher said he had no idea since the young Calderon had never showed for a lesson. "My father asked me one day how the piano lessons were going. I knew Id been caught," he said. Calderon said he told his father the truth. The senior Calderon took young Blondie to the barbershop and used the leather strap on him. One swat for each dollar he had wasted at the Movie Theater. "That was the end of piano lessons but it was not the end of the piano," said Calderon with a laugh.

It was a fitting tribute to Calderon to celebrate his life with a production just for him. The Ray Price Orchestra played as did Radney Foster. Blondies daughters Moisann and Jacque sang a "Song of Farewell".

Much of the music for the formal Roman Catholic service was taken from a concert that Calderon did with his dear friend Ray Price, at the First United Methodist Church of Houston, Texas on February 27, 2000.

Miguel Gutierrez gave an emotion-packed tribute to his father in law, Blondie. Jana, Miguel's wife and Blondie's daughter, gave birth to Miguel Jr. the day after Blondie's death.

"All I can say is Blondie, you are playing in the biggest gig ever," said Gutierrez. "Save some tickets at the will-call booth. I can still hear the music."

Price, along with Gutierrez and Foster were pallbearers. Also pallbearers were Moises "Cinco" Calderon, Ferdy Calderon, Pat Calderon, Billy Calderon, John Sym, and Brace Phillips.

Honorary Pallbearers were Mark Hernandez, Eloy Garza, Scott Crossman, Gary Jones, Steve Story, Steve Palousek, Steve Thompson, Danny Alexander and Juan Nanez."

It is a musical, humorous, joyful legacy that Blondie gave us," said Kusenberger.

Blondie Calderon was laid to rest at the Sacred Heart Cemetery on West Second Street. Family, friends and acquaintances alike said that he will be missed.