Thanks to Phoebe Allentown resident Ed Helinsky, residents were recently treated to a rare Lehigh Valley performance of the prestigious Veterans Association of Military Musicians (VAMM).
Ed’s son, Ray Helinsky and his wife, Anna Marie founded the group in 1996 after they retired from the Army Band based in Philadelphia. Due to the location of the band members, it is often difficult for the entire group to travel to the Lehigh Valley for performances. It seems that Ed was able to pull some strings and as a result, many memories were stirred by the Military Musicians’ 17-piece 40s style dance band.
For most members of The Greatest Generation, Big Band music represents an era and still means so much. “My father knows all the words to the songs we play and even I don’t remember them,” Ray says with a laugh.
“While Ray was speaking to the audience, our dad turned around to the people behind us and said, ‘that’s my son’,” says Bev Hennessy, Ed’s daughter. “He was very proud of him that night,” she adds.
While Ed served the U.S. at the end of World War II, Ray’s service in the military can be more attributed to their family’s love of music. As a trumpet player, he applied for a position in the Army Band at the end of high school and was lucky enough to find an opening in Philadelphia’s Army Reserve Band.
“We grew up with music,” Bev says. “Mom and dad always had music on in the house and let us play our own music on the family record player. I remember dancing with my friends and my parents.”
Ed moved to Phoebe Allentown in May of last year but was no stranger to the Allentown campus in the past. In addition to having other members of his family live at Phoebe, Ed volunteered as a bingo caller in The David A. Miller Personal Care Community with his two nieces for almost 10 years.
“Our cousins, Marion and Bernie got him involved with the bingo volunteering,” says Ray. “He still goes every Monday now that he lives here but plays bingo rather than calling the numbers.”
A long-time Allentown resident who worked as a foreman at clothing factories in the area, Ed and his wife of 42 years, Mildred, moved to a house in the West End 30 years ago. Its location, just across the Allentown Fairgrounds helps Ed to feel like he never really left his neighborhood when he moved to Phoebe.