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Published August 23, 2013, 08:54 PM

Grand Forks man — a staple at Blues on the Red — passes away

When Peggy Dores, of Grand Forks, arrived at Town Square on July 27, she did what she had done at every other festival thus far — she looked for her friend, Ray Ganyo. But this time, Ganyo was nowhere to be found.

By: Jasmine Maki, Grand Forks Herald

While people danced and laughed with their friends and family at the Blues on the Red summer concert series, one attendee sat near the front of the crowd, wiping away tears.

When Peggy Dores, of Grand Forks, arrived at Town Square on July 27, she did what she had done at every other festival thus far — she looked for her friend, Ray Ganyo.

But this time, Ganyo was nowhere to be found.

Dores soon discovered her beloved friend and “blues brother” would no longer be joining her at festivals. Ganyo died in his bed early July 27.

As Dores sat listening to the music, she remembered all the times she and Ganyo had shared. Dores met Ganyo when she worked as a secretary at UND. He was working toward a master’s degree in social work at the time.

They occasionally would talk on campus, but it wasn’t until they bumped into each other at a Blues on the Red event that they began forming a friendship.

“We just started going to blues festivals together,” Dores said. “It was a special friendship.”

Community members and event organizers came to recognize the duo, who were both wheelchair-bound and always sat near the front of the stage.

A full life

Ganyo became paralyzed from the chest down in 1981. He was on a weekend camping trip near New Braunfel, Texas, when he dove off a bridge into the Guadalupe River. He broke his neck, leaving him paralyzed.

“He led a pretty full life considering his disability,” said Marlene Dvorak, Ganyo’s mother. “I never heard him say, ‘why did this happen to me.’ He tried to learn as much as he could about his disability and how to cope with it. He was an inspiration to many people.”

Ganyo was involved in the mayor’s Community on Employment of People with Disabilities and was presented with “The Most Outstanding Handicap Citizen of the Year Award” in 2000.

Dvorak said Ganyo was a staunch UND hockey supporter and attended as many home games as he could. He also enjoyed hunting, which he had recently taken up. Dvorak said Ganyo had made friends in North Dakota who would pick him up and take him hunting. She said they were always helpful in making sure he got a deer.

“He was a very likeable person,” she said. “He made friends very easily.”

‘Highlight of his year’

Music was also a big part of Ganyo’s life, specifically blues music.

He attended blues festivals in Grand Forks, Fargo and Thief River Falls, often meeting Dores once he arrived.

“He always went to the Moondance Jam,” Dvorak said. “That was the highlight of his year, and he went this year, too.”

The rock music festival ended July 20, just seven days before Ganyo’s death. Dvorak said he had planned to attend the last Blues on the Red event as well. “I guess he was the focal point at many concerts. People would come and ask, ‘Where’s Ray?’”

Greg Hoover, director of Grand Fork’s Urban Development said he was always at the front of the crowd in his wheelchair.

“This was one place he could get away and forget about his illness,” he said.

Dores said she and Ganyo occasionally discussed their struggles with their disabilities, but it wasn’t the basis of their relationship.

“Ray was my blues buddy,” she said. “He was always joking, making me laugh. (He was) a very generous man with a big heart.”

After hearing the news, Dores said she wanted to leave the event, but she thought Ganyo would have wanted her to stay and enjoy the music.

“He’s probably meeting all the great blues artists tonight,” she said with a smile.

Dores plans to continue attending the festivals, but she said it won’t be the same without her friend.

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