Musician remembered for faith, strength

Courtesy photo Kevin Gardels on the air during one of his radio programs.

Benna Sayyed

Kevin Gardels called on his spiritual strength to deal with his fierce battle against cancer, family members said.

After being diagnosed with a rare cancer known as primary myelofibrosis in September 2002, the Portales musician’s battle lasted nearly a decade.

He died Saturday in Portales from complications caused by his cancer. He was 54.

“My father was one of the strongest fighters I’ve ever seen and had defied the odds many times, through myelofibrosis, his lung disease, four heart attacks and the various ailments associated with or because of them,” Jeremy Gardels said. “He helped us deal with his illness almost more than we helped with this. He had a very strong understanding of where his road was leading him, and decided early on to embrace it, and leave no stone unturned on that path.”

Jeremy Gardels said his father lived and breathed music, performing around the state, whether it be blues, Christian rock or soft piano ballads at funerals. He said when his father played the piano at Heartland retirement center in Portales residents would clap and sway with delight, feeling a sense of enlightenment.

“My father’s music spread warmth wherever he played it, and he loved to spread that warmth. He enjoyed discussing music, philosophizing, and discussing religion with a deep passion and illumination that would leave one relatively speechless,” Jeremy Gardels said.

Kevin Gardels was also a local radio station DJ, Christian radio talk show host and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University.

Lari Bollinger, a friend and bandmate of Kevin Gardels for more than 12 years, described him as a strong person who always had a positive outlook.

Bollinger said he turned his music to the lord when he abandoned shows at bars and nightclubs to play at churches and Christian charity events.

“When he was coming up, he was coming up in the church. His life started and ended with faith. He had a very strong faith,” Bollinger said.

Bollinger played alongside Kevin in several bands that performed at charity events around Clovis and Portales. A benefit concert to help Kevin’s family pay his hospital bills was scheduled this Friday.

“I just talked to him over the phone and the last thing we did was pray together. He was looking forward to the benefit,” Bollinger said.

Jeremy said he and his father had planned to shoot music videos for a couple of his songs and create a package for his album compilation.

He said his father was ecstatic about the recent video shoot of his song, “God’s Hands,” with Tommy Allsup and Paul Goad of the Fireballs and was eager to upload it to Facebook. Jeremy Gardels plans to continue his father’s plans.

“I want my father to be remembered by his unyielding faith and unprecedented kindness to others given despite his own struggles,” Jeremy Gardels said. “His music is his largest undying legacy, and everything that he was, is and will be is in every note of every song he ever recorded. Listen to his songs, and you’ll see him, feel him, hear him and know him.”