Las Vegas is a community with a heart. When an act of arson caused two valued members of the community to suffer a loss, some of the most talented people in the Las Vegas area joined to put together a fundraising benefit.
A concert suited to every taste will be presented on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. in the Presbyterian Church, 1000 Douglas Ave.
A reception for Joe and Ida Cooney follows the program. Artists performing include Linda King, André García-Nuthmann, Betty Thompson and The Three Bs jazz group, Edward Harrington, Cyn Riley, R. Woods, Nita Lujan, Tatiana Dutoit and many others. Donations will be accepted.
The fire that all but destroyed Joe and Ida Cooney’s building, at 1108 Douglas Ave., affected their livelihood, and it seemed as though their dream of a new life in Las Vegas would be threatened. The building contained three apartments, which provided income, and even more importantly, Ida’s Europa Hair Studio. Ida had only worked for other people since coming to the United States from the Netherlands, and she wanted her own shop, to run as she thought one should be run. Her customers — men, women and children — were affected as well, when they heard about the fire.
Ida not only cut, shampooed and styled their coiffures, but she attended to the health of their hair. European trained in beauty techniques, she used a microscope to gain a better idea of the hair she was dealing with, and kept a record of her regular customers’ preferences and needs. If one of her “regulars” was too ill to come to her, she went to them in order to give them the feeling of well-being that a good trim, shampoo and head massage provides.
Joe Cooney left his construction job in California to pursue and gain a music education at Highlands. “For five or six years, he sang in every concert, every semester,” said André García-Nuthmann, coordinator of Music and Theatre. Aware of Joe’s musicianship, García-Nuthmann saw to it that Joe became an adjunct professor in the department, as well as assistant choir director.
“He’s wonderful, patient and creative teacher. His efforts and energy have helped me bring up the level of choral programs. Putting a concert together without him would be very difficult.” Since adjunct professors are paid by the credit hour they teach, Joe found it advisable to take his talents to Luna Community College, as well. He still finds time to be a volunteer, as a Big Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
Life had been going smoothly and successfully until the fire created what seemed to be an insuperable barrier. But Joe and Ida were not ones to give up. The fire occurred on a Saturday night and to Ida’s relief, her appointment book and other important papers were spared. By Wednesday, her regular opening day, she had a workable studio set up in a room of her mother’s house on Sperry Street. It has since been fitted out with everything necessary to her work, and her customers have been served as usual.
The burned-out house was another matter. Joe soon learned the price of tearing down and hauling away the blackened ruin would be $21,000. That was when he decided to take care of it himself.
Over Christmas break, Joe and his friend Doug Hughes, M.D., donned hazard suits, goggles, masks and gloves to begin the cleanup. When the debris was gone, Joe could see the place was salvageable in part. It was built in 1896, using old-fashioned square nails and beautiful wood, “the kind you can’t find these days,” and he believes he can rebuild it into a new and usable dwelling.
He will make it modern, with insulation, double-glaze windows, and solar features. A big order.
The fundraiser will help, but “knowing people care means the most,” Joe says.
Friends and colleagues of Joe and Ida may make a donation at the door, and those who wish to donate but are unable to attend may mail a contribution to Joe and Ida Cooney, 707 Kane, Las Vegas, N.M. 87701.