Local Obituaries

Music infused life of mandolin player, builder

Gary Palsmeier, who played and often built mandolins, died Friday of prostate cancer. He was 55.
Gary Palsmeier, who played and often built mandolins, died Friday of prostate cancer. He was 55. Courtesy photo

Back in the day, Gary Palsmeier and his musician friends would have square dances in the attic of their three-story house on North Broadway.

But the dances — enhanced by bluegrass music — had to come to a stop, friend Ted Farha said, because plaster started falling off the ceilings.

Music was core to Mr. Palsmeier's life — worth a little falling plaster, friends say.

Mr. Palsmeier, 55, died Friday after a recurrence of prostate cancer.

He played the mandolin, including many he designed and made himself, for nearly his whole life, said his partner and caregiver, Nikki Moddelmog.

Over the years, Mr. Palsmeier was in several bands, trios and quartets, including Grand River Township in the 1970s, the band responsible for the falling plaster.

He worked at one time for Mossman Guitars in Winfield, which has guitars at the National Music Museum. Farha, who played mandolin with Mr. Palsmeier in the Riverside Mandolin Quartet, said Mr. Palsmeier made beautiful instruments, including a five-string electric mandolin. If Mr. Palsmeier couldn't find what he wanted, he built it himself, Farha said.

Mr. Palsmeier also played bass and guitar. In a band called Southwind, he played bass and mandolin.

In 1987, former legislator Ken Groteweil wanted a lot of mandolins at his wedding, Farha said. Groteweil also lived at the square dance house. Mr. Palsmeier called Farha, and they

formed Riverside Mandolin Quartet with Mike Seiwert and Mike Barrett.

"We put a quartet together to play a Vivaldi piece at the wedding," Farha said.

Mr. Palsmeier loved jazz, said Craig Owens, who teaches jazz at Wichita State University. Mr. Palsmeier studied with Owens and became "the best adult student that I've ever had," Owens said. "Then he got so good that he hired me."

Owens played in recent years with Mr. Palsmeier in the Gary Palsmeier Trio at Bella Luna on North Rock Road.

Mr. Palsmeier underwent surgery in 2008 for cancer. It came back.

He developed a limp in his left leg, Owens said.

"I didn't think much of it, Gary didn't think much of it," Owens said. "But he could see it get worse. In October, we played a job at Botanica, and at that point, Gary could hardly walk. That was the last time we played together. Gary was tough. Gary wasn't going to show how much that was bothering him."

Friends will remember him with music at 7 p.m. today at the Anchor.

Farha, whose Farha Construction employed Mr. Palsmeier for many years as a superintendent, said that a fellow musician made a comment that "all the mandolin players could move up a notch now that Gary is gone."