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Fire drums up support for local legend

As one of the best-known rock drummers of the early 1960s, Sandy Nelson knows how important his role is in keeping the rhythm of a composition or tune. The drum’s beat is often the heart and soul of a song.

As a resident of Boulder City, he is experiencing the spirit of giving and kindness that is the heart and soul of the community.

In December, just days before Christmas, there was an electrical fire in his home that has left it inhabitable for the time being. It forced the 80-year-old staple of downtown into a hotel.

The fire and necessary repairs may have left him out, but not down. Just as a drummer provides support for the band he is playing with, he now finds the band — or community in this case — providing the support he needs.

Locals are chipping in and contributing to a GoFundMe account to pay for the repairs and help with his living expenses until he can return home.

Terry Stevens of the Coffee Cup has a jar set up near the register for donations. Terry has been friends with Sandy for more than 20 years and their bond dates back years before that when his grandmother would go to dances where Sandy was performing.

He also has helped pay for a hotel room for Sandy, who didn’t have insurance on his home.

Ray Turner, who set up the GoFundMe page, said he felt compelled to help after a chance meeting with Sandy at the Coffee Cup, where he can usually be found on weekday afternoons.

“I saw his donation bowl on the counter and thought I have to help. That led to me setting up the page.

“Like many people I’m acquainted with Sandy and have enjoyed his drum playing many times and also his stories, which are many, over the years. I figured people would want to assist him and as a contractor myself I know how expensive it is to repair old homes.”

Sandy and his son, Josh Straume, also are getting expert guidance and assistance going through the repair and renovation process from their “helpful friend” Jack Gaal, owner of Jack’s Place and a former contractor.

Before this, Josh said the only home repair he had to do was a small roof patch on his home. The amount of work needed to get Sandy’s home livable was overwhelming.

A benefit performance is planned for Saturday evening at Jack’s Place, where Sandy said he will treat those attending with a drum solo and accompanying the Full Throttle Blues Band for a couple of songs.

“Five thousand things went right. Only one thing went wrong — the fire,” Josh said.

The fire, which started in the kitchen of the home built in 1938 — the same year Sandy was born — was just part of the problem with the electrical system overall. In fact, when inspecting the residence after the fire, the house was condemned until the electrical system could be repaired, Josh said.

While the Red Cross assisted Sandy in the days immediately following the fire, it quickly became evident that it would take longer to make the repairs. Josh said they essentially lost the first three weeks because of the holiday season when no one was available to do the work or provide the necessary inspections.

Josh said they also needed to make some improvements to make the home more livable for Sandy, who had a stroke last year. It just made sense to do it all at the same time while they were living elsewhere.

They hope to be back at home by March 1.

Both said they are extremely grateful for the outpouring of love and support from those they know and strangers who just want to help.

“It’s amazing. I’m overwhelmed and thankful, of course,” Sandy said. “It makes me feel warm and fuzzy.”

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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