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Super Senior: Jon Gailmor

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 1:42 PM EDT
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MORRISVILLE, Vt. (WCAX) - Music is back at Bishop John A. Marshall School in Morrisville, led by longtime Vermont musician Jon Gailmor.

Like so many places during the pandemic, the music went silent at this Catholic school. “The human interaction -- I craved it and I was missing it,” Gailmor said.

Principal Carrie Wilson would agree, and Gailmor is now back to doing one of his weeklong residencies with students. “I think this will be one of the best weeks of the year for our kids,” Wilson said.

This class of 1st graders will not only sing, the 73-year-old has been composing songs with kids for decades. This week’s theme -- the rainforest. “I love to perform because I’m a born ham. And I love to sing to people and I love to make people laugh,” Gailmor said.

Even composing tunes before he could speak. “And I would go, ‘Good, good, good, good.’ And people would crack up. The kid from Philadelphia crossed the pond in the early ‘70s. With guitar in hand, he and a buddy played for tourists all over Europe. “That’s when I discovered I needed to entertain people.”

Gailmor came back to the states and fell in love with Vermont and a UVM grad student and teacher named Cathy Murphy. “We met at a club in Burlington called Hunts,” he said. “She came up to me and asked if I would ever consider performing for high school-aged kids. What I wanted to say, but didn’t: ‘If you’re there, I’ll be there.’” They moved to Elmore and eventually married. “And I was totally smitten.”

Two years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, we asked Jon to perform a song for Channel 3 viewers. It was kind of a “we can get through this together” anthem. Little did he and Cathy know at the time that COVID would be the least of their concerns. She was diagnosed with ALS, a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, eventually leading to death.

“We dreaded the rest of her life from that moment on,” Gailmor said. “She was on a ventilator the whole time because of the respiratory nature of ALS that was attacking her.”

Cathy couldn’t speak. She used a whiteboard to communicate. “Here’s what sums Cathy up. Every day we’d arrive at her bedside in the morning and the first thing she would write is, ‘How are you all doing?’ Gailmor said.

Gailmor and their kids were by her side. “And the last thing she wrote on a whiteboard, Joe, was, ‘I just want to get this done,’ which meant, time to pull the ventilator,” he said. “It was peaceful. If there was any sign of distress, they’d jack up the morphine a little bit, but she died on her own terms, calling the shots.”

As you may have gathered, music brings Jon joy.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Performing for these kids, does it help?

Jon Gailmor: Oh boy, it saves me, it sustains me.

Proving that music does soothe the soul.

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