RIP Frankie - a teacher, scholar, musician and proud citizen of Belize. Marty, if you can post some photos I'll send them over - or check the news article that shows some too.
Frankie Rhys dies on the morning before his benefit concert
Musicians, unionists, educators and students are mourning the passing of popular jazz musician and educator, Frankie Rhys. Rhys battled diabetes for twenty five years and his health condition turned for the worse in late 2008. He lost that battle early this morning at his home. It happened on the same day that Association for Belizean Artists First is hosting a benefit concert to help the veteran musical artist with his medical expenses. But he did not live to see it. News Five’s Marion Ali discovered that Rhys died hoping to be a part of the show, an event that has around twenty performers on stage.
Marion Ali, Reporting
The show must go on they say and tonight proud fans of Frankie Rhys will fill the seats at the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts in what Frankie Rhys’ colleagues have planned as not only a benefit concert but a tribute to a man they loved having around.
Tony Wright, Organizer, Frankie Rhys benefit concert
“This morning we talked with Diana, Frankie’s wife, and although emotional Diana says we have to do this show because Frankie wouldn’t ah mi want anything less right.”
“Unfortunately and so sadly, today was to be the show and then the guy passed away. But that doesn’t stop us from go ahead with the show. We will definitely go ahead with the show and we would like all artists to still come around and we ask the people to support us more outstandingly because the wife still has a lot of bills left behind.”
Also left behind, are a unique musical legacy and his wife Diana, shared some of them with us – first about his last days.
Diana Rhys, Frankie Rhys’ wife
“The nerve damage to his neck caused him to not to be able to swallow. It was really hard because he kept thinking it’s going to go away. But it never went away. At night when Frankie sleeps the saliva can’t go up and can’t go down so it accumulates in the throat and he gurgles and I would touch him and he would – I’m fine I’m fine. So last night when he started this and I test him he said fine. Cause I always tell him roll over on your side or let me put you sit up. And then I fell back to sleep and then I heard like somebody vomiting and I grabbed his hand and said Frankie and his hand dropped. And I put on the light and he was grasping for breath. And he was literally throwing up but nothing was coming up. And so it was just a matter of ten minutes and he was gone.”
But there are also good many good memories for Diana.
“There was a place right where Vogue’s used to be and there used to have place behind called El Patio and it was an upscale restaurant. They had Nelson Diamond used to perform there and we just had good jam session, all good musicians would come and I would come in and sing and that’s how we met. That was in 1974. I am so happy to have known Frank and even towards the end he was funny. He was so funny.”
Show organizer, Tony Wright says the entertainers were all too eager to participate, something that dancers Raymond Gonzalez and his dancing partner, Nurse Eleanor Sutherland will prove tonight.
“We are really glad that we could do this for Frankie. Diana says that when he heard about it Frankie says well now I know di people still love me and dat dah di feeling we get from doing this.”
“What you have planned for tonight?”
“Well I plan to do what they call a free-style Bolero dance. I’ll put my all out. Plenty people ask me to do that little footwork I think they enjoy seeing us do that together, so prepare for it.”
“You’ll dance for Frankie tonight.”
“Yeah, I think I’ll go out more for Frankie tonight.”
One person who was preparing for the concert tonight, was Frankie himself.
“He was going to because he said to me last night don’t forget we have to practice in the morning. We’ve been doing this for a while, from the time we met, and so he always plays behind me and we know how to play off each other, we have such good timing. I said to him do you realize that if you die I will never sing again and he looked at me said why? I said because my pianist is dead. And he said there are many good pianists and I said yeah but none of them have been with me for thirty-six years.”
Diana Rhys says she will still attend her husband’s concert, despite her loss and her grief. Together they have three children. Marion Ali for News Five.
If Diana Rhys has any regrets it is that her husband would have been able to go abroad for treatment long ago if a family dispute over land had not delayed the his access to his share of the property. Frankie Rhys retired from teaching in 2008 and will be laid to rest next week Saturday at his parents’ farm just outside of Dangriga Town. The concert begins at eight at the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts.