Members of The Entertainers at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center celebrated local musician Russell Hanna last week with a tribute party.
“It’s nice to have a tribute night while they’re still alive,” said Barbara LeChaix, director of The Entertainers. “We don’t very often get to do that.”
Hanna had written music for the Ahwatukee Recreation Center’s (ARC) group since 1990, and has since moved into the Mountain Park Senior Living center in Ahwatukee.
In his 22 years of writing music for the show group, which performs and rehearses at the ARC as well as nursing homes and churches, Hanna became a revered part of the group.
LeChaix and her late husband, Joe, started The Entertainers in 1982 before meeting and befriending Hanna. Joe and Hanna then immediately became best friends and worked together as scriptwriter and songwriter.
“He could play anything in any key, but he couldn’t read music,” LeChaix added. “(The tribute night) is a way to thank and honor him.”
The tribute event included dinner, small performances by The Entertainers, and a collage of all the music Hanna wrote for the group over the years.
“It was just fantastic,” said Hanna, 88, who was surprised by the event.
Hanna’s wife, Millie, said Hanna was overwhelmed by the all the attention, mentioning that he was just happy to serve the recreation center.
“He never thinks he’s important,” Millie said.
The couple, who have been married for about nine years, moved into the senior living center last March. A retired fighter pilot for the United States Air Force, Hanna now spends his time playing piano at the center.
“I get serenaded all the time,” added Millie. “He’s always been so fun.”
The Entertainers perform in March at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center, 5001 E. Cheyenne Drive, as well as smaller gigs around Ahwatukee Foothills.
For more information, call LeChaix at (480) 893-2658.
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