It may be just one of 63 houses Habitat for Humanity has constructed in the Rogue Valley — exactly No. 63 — but it's probably the first one built for a blind musician who played for his pad.
Bill Hahey, a fixture of the local music scene since arriving in the valley from Pennsylvania in 1983, will take possession of the new home on Sweet Road in March.
Hahey, 61, has been blind from birth. That didn't stop him from mastering keyboards, the guitar, the bass and the trombone, as well as singing — a daunting prospect even for a sighted person. As someone who plays the trombone — and only the trombone — it's downright inspirational.
Hahey had some challenges to overcome to qualify for the Habitat for Humanity program as well. He owed money on the motorhome he was living in, so he had to pay off that debt first. Then, he couldn't contribute the usual "sweat equity" of helping with the construction because of liability concerns. So local churches and musicians pitched in to provide the hands-on work, and Hahey played music once a week at the Habitat Restore to fulfill his required 500 hours of work, and beyond, continuing to play after the required minimum was met.
The local Commission for the Blind helped build and equip a recording studio in Hahey's house so he can earn money to help pay the mortgage.
I had the pleasure of sitting in with Bill's band once or twice at the Bella Union, and found him gracious and welcoming. He is respected in the local music community for obvious reasons, and that is reflected in the benefit concert planned for Saturday night at the Grape Street Bar and Grill, featuring Hahey's band, Uncle Willee and the Willetts. You can be sure the show will draw musicians who aren't playing elsewhere.
The completion of House No. 63 is more than just another structure for Habitat for Humanity, a global organization dedicated to providing housing for all. The story of how it came to be is a testament to the community that helped make it happen.