Oct. 2 will be a day to remember for Jeff Willet. After all, the day has been named after him.
Willet is a Luling man whose love of music has parlayed into him being a life-long musician. The St. Charles Parish Council recently proclaimed that Oct. 2 will be Jeff Willet Day, and on that day Destrehan Plantation will host Jeff Rocks Back the Clock.
Willet, who just this month retired from the LA DOTD, said he first learned how to play music from his grandfather. Willet graduated from Hahnville High School in 1979 and began playing in a band shortly after that.
Willet said he has played in many bands throughout the years, and considers his time playing music and meeting new people through those musical experiences as some of the best days of his life.
“I am so lucky,” he said. “I mean … what little bit of talent the Good Lord blessed on me I worked hard … I would give 100 percent for every performance. I’m just blessed to be around these musicians who have way, way more talent than I’ll ever have. To be able to be out there with people and meeting so many people in my life … it was a fun thing. It really kept a smile on me in my life. I love to have the smiles outdo the frowns.”
Willet said in the fall of last year he started having problems lifting his left arm, and after many rounds of different doctor’s appointments and a battery of tests came his ALS diagnosis.
“It surprised us,” he said. “It was jaw dropping. It’s definitely a challenge right now with my arms. That’s one of the things that hurts me the most … I can’t play my guitars anymore. But I can still play my ukulele. That’s keeps me going. I’ll do it as long as I can. I remain positive. I tell everyone I’ll live tomorrow just like I lived yesterday.”
Jeff Rocks Back the Clock will feature many of Willet’s current and former bandmates coming together to perform and raise money for the Gleason Foundation.
The event is free to the public and will begin at noon. Food and beverage will be available for purchase under the pavilion. Chairs and picnic blankets are welcome and encouraged as other seating is limited. No outside food or drink will be allowed.
Dean Cluelee was just 13 when he met Willet in a bar. Cluelee said he hopped on stage to play music in the band – which Willet was in.
“I jumped up on stage not really knowing what I was doing and that was that,” Cluelle said. “Jeff asked me, ‘You want to be in a band?’”
Cluelee laughed when he remembered his answer.
“I have to ask my mom,” he told Willet. “But that was the beginning of our friendship … our dear, dear friendship.”
Cluelee is helping to organize the music event for Willet.
“It’s going to be a beautiful thing,” he said.