If you remember walking into the Nordstrom at Tacoma mall and hearing a live piano melody, then you’re familiar with Juan Perez’s talent. For 27 years he played for Nordstrom guests in Tacoma until they cut their live in-store music budget two years ago. In July 2014, Perez was diagnosed with a rare heart cancer. After going through surgery and chemotherapy his cancer is back and has spread to his lungs and lymph nodes.
El Gaucho Tacoma is hosting a fundraising dinner for Juan and his family from 4-10 p.m. on November 22. According to the restaurant, “all service charges, gratuities, and 50% of sales will go to help Juan and his family. There will be a special Prime Rib dinner special for $47 per person, as well as our regular menu. We are looking into setting up an account with a local bank but in the interim, people can bring a check made out to Juan Perez to any El Gaucho restaurant and we will make sure that he receives them.”
Perez is known throughout the community for his musical talent. According to El Gaucho, he started taking piano lessons when he was 7-years-old in Manila where’s he’s from. He also fell in love with playing the marimba. After winning several radio and TV contests he started performing at military bases. In 1969 he got a job performing for US troops in Vietnam. In 1985 he moved to Washington and started working with Nordstrom. He’s performed all over the South Sound from the Governor’s Mansion to McChord Air Force Base.
People that know Perez say that he has the biggest heart. Even while working two fulltime jobs he spent over 1000 volunteer hours at Holy Rosary Church. He also plays at the Weatherly Inn assisted living facility. After his open-heart surgery last year he played “Unforgettable” for the doctors and nurses at Tacoma General Hospital.
Perez met his wife, Susan, in the Manila church where he grew up. They married in the same church 39 years ago. Together they’ve raised seven sons and three daughters. They also have nine grandchildren. Earlier this year a GoFundMe site to support the family maxed out at $10,000 in two days.