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A special celebration

Never in a million years did I expect a Falcon graduation party to turn into a rock ‘n’ roll gala featuring a four-member band and a lead singer with a voice like Janice Joplin, Stevie Nicks and Shania Twain all rolled into one.One Falcon neighborhood came alive over Memorial Day weekend when Geneva, a band with roots in Nashville, traveled cross-country to Falcon to perform in concert at a graduation celebration for Jake Cockrum, Tim McCarthy and Jeff Garcia – all Falcon High School 2005 grads.I was invited to the party because Tim and his mom and dad, Kathy McCarthy and Pat Kellogg, live next door to me. We’ve been good neighbors and friends over the years (you might remember my friendship with their Great Danes as well). Tim also is my super pet-sitter, and I didn’t want to miss the big event. And I’m a better person for it.The party took shape at the Falcon home of Kim Cockrum and her three children: graduate Jake; Kylie, age 13 (almost); Morgan, age 11; and Gator (their new Basset Hound puppy).Lots of friends, family and neighbors shared the evening hoopla. Those friends included Geneva Keene; her guitar-playing brother, Rusty Keene; keyboard guru Gary Craig; and drummer Dwayne Jones, Geneva’s fiancÈ. The band, Geneva, aptly named for the awesome-sounding Ms. Keene, performs ole’ country, rock ‘n’ roll tunes and original songs for audiences worldwide. Theyíve also opened for some of the big guns in music like Foghat, Steppenwolf and Johnny Cash. Geneva Keene toured with Billy Ray Cyrus. Today Geneva, the band, is on its own – a big enough gun to be the headliner for many music fests throughout the country.This music fest – ala graduation – was one they promised to make. It was a special evening for the seniors and one filled with memories, especially for Jake. There were good memories of high school and mellower memories of a loss Jake’s family incurred earlier this year.Not only was the concert/party fun, the food plentiful and the place rocking with great vocals and instrumentals – just ask the sheriff’s deputies who were called to the scene about five times (they were also seen toe-tapping) – but it was a lesson in how people connect and become powerful friends and strong shoulders in times of need.In February, Mike Cockrum, father of Jake, Kylie and Morgan and husband to Kim, died in a car accident. Life changed. Graduation would be bittersweet.But thanks to friends, especially Geneva, the celebration was one that Jake, Tim, Jeff and many others will never forget. The story behind the unlikely friendship between a Falcon family and four rock stars is one I had to tell.In May 2003, Kim Cockrum was stationed with the Air Force in Turkey during Iraqi Freedom. Mike was home with the kids. He retired from the Air Force in 2003. The band, Geneva, was the first performing on a USO tour in Turkey. It was only a four-day stint, but Kim, Geneva Keene and the other band members became fast friends.Even though they hadn’t kept in close touch, in August 2004 Kim heard that Geneva would be playing at the Cripple Creek Motorcycle Rally. She and Mike decided to attend the concert. It didn’t take long for Geneva and the band to recognize their buddy from Turkey, and the friendship was rekindled. Geneva and her “boys in the band” hung out in Colorado for two weeks at the Cockrums’ Falcon homestead.To some, the six-some might appear odd. I didn’t know Mike, but I envision a couple just the like the rest of us – Colorado common in jeans and Ts. Then there’s Geneva and the boys. The gal with the amazing voice sporting a foxy look – long blonde hair, short shorts (great legs I might add, and yes, girls do notice other girls) and riding boots (the motorcycle kind), and the boys – long hair, no hair, tattoos and leather.It’s true: Culture and style have little influence when hearts and souls connect.And when that friendship disconnects for whatever reason, a part of the heart goes with it.Kim said Geneva and the boys were devastated when they couldn’t make Mike’s funeral – they were booked in concerts.I feel somehow that the band’s presence at Jake, Tim and Jeff’s graduation party was equally important. Rusty Keene sang a song, “Since you’ve been Gone” that he wrote in memory of Mike. There were lots of references to days gone by. There were tears and there were cheers. There was a lot of hugging and a lot of dancing.I stayed much longer than I had planned – mesmerized by the music, engaged by the down-to-earth friendliness of the band. I was sad thinking about the family’s loss but rejuvenated as I observed an unconditional friendship and its power in helping to heal life’s tragedies. It was a lesson in love; one that renewed my faith in the human spirit. And it all happened in a Falcon garage on a chilly spring night. You never know – you just never know.Thanks, Kim, for sharing!(See pictures on graduation page)- ml@jazzwireless.netP.S. If you want to see Geneva in concert, the band will be in Salida, Colo., for a motorcycle rally on July 1. Call the NFH for more details.

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