Man with terminal cancer gets the concert of his dreams

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — Jerry Lambrich’s wish came true.

It was a simple one.

The 80-year-old Owensboro man wanted Cash Unchained, a Johnny Cash tribute band, to play a private concert for him and a small group of friends and family at his house.

Luckily, the band’s lead guitarist is his son, Ronnie Lambrich, of Virginia. Ronnie and fellow Cash Unchained member James Tamelcoff made the 10-hour drive to perform in Jerry’s garage on Old Mill Lane. They were joined by local musicians Randy Lanham, Chris Joslin and Chris Armstrong.

In December, doctors diagnosed Jerry with terminal brain cancer. They believe he has about four months to live.

Jerry loves bluegrass and gospel music. Throughout his life, he played mandolin, fiddle and guitar — until glioblastoma racked his brain, that is.

Last Wednesday, Jerry sat in the middle of his garage with his cane leaning against one knee. He wore a Wildcat blue T-shirt with the word “Bluegrass” on the left shoulder.

He was surrounded by friends, grandkids and children, just like he wanted.

“I’m not thinking of my sickness anymore,” Jerry said.

While the band played the Hank Williams song “I Saw the Light,” Jerry lifted his hand in praise. It’s one of his favorite tunes.

As a former Baptist pastor, Jerry knows he’s headed for heaven, so death holds no fear. He’s more concerned about leaving behind his bride of 59 years.

Doris and Jerry met at work in December 1960 and married the following March.

She was a bookkeeper for Gatton Motors. He was a mechanic there.

“I hope we make it to our 60th,” Doris said.

When Jerry was first diagnosed, he told his family he hoped to live to see another spring. Now, he hopes to celebrate another birthday on Aug. 23.

“We all know we’re going to die, but it’s awful to know you’re at death’s door,” his wife said.

Until glioblastoma, Jerry was rarely sick. He enjoyed an active life, tinkering with hot rods, golfing and playing music.

Jerry especially loved building “T-Buckets,” or 1923 Ford Model Ts.

In June 2018, Jerry and his oldest grandson, Mitchell Shoup, started one. If the two knuckle down, they could take it for a spin in about two months.

“I’m still waiting on him,” Shoup said. “He says he’s coming out so we can finish it together.”

That’s the goal.

Shoup, who attended Wednesday’s concert, wants to take his grandpa for a ride in that hot rod, which Shoup painted silver in honor of brain cancer awareness.

Jerry worked as a machinist at W.R. Grace nearly 30 years. He also served as a bi-vocational Baptist pastor.

He led Friendship Baptist Church 21 years, and he served at Immanuel Baptist Church about four.

In his heyday, he performed with a lot of country music bands.

Jerry’s love of music rubbed off on his son, Ronnie, who was happy to use his talent to fulfill his dad’s wish.

If only for an hour or so, the concert helped Jerry forget the ravages of glioblastoma and enjoy one of life’s sweet moments.

“Music is a strong drug,” Ronnie said.

Places in this Story

People in the Story