Late local music legend gets his own day during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

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There were only two notorious harmonica musicians in San Diego back in the late 1970s, many times playing together in different country bands, and both established in East County.

One of them, Rusty Faulk, died last summer of prostate cancer, while the other, Wayne Markus, brought his band to play at Faulk’s memorial organized recently at Casino Inn in Alpine by his family to raise funds and awareness about prostate cancer.

Susie Faulk was motivated to organize a fundraiser to keep a promise she made to her late husband.

There were only two notorious harmonica musicians in San Diego back in the late 1970s, many times playing together in different country bands, and both established in East County.

One of them, Rusty Faulk, died last summer of prostate cancer, while the other, Wayne Markus, brought his band to play at Faulk’s memorial organized recently at Casino Inn in Alpine by his family to raise funds and awareness about prostate cancer.

Susie Faulk was motivated to organize a fundraiser to keep a promise she made to her late husband.

“I promised my husband that I would keep advocating, so no other family would have to go through this and kids won’t have to bury their dad,” she said. “I just want to honor my husband.”

Mayor Bill Wells of El Cajon declared Sept. 7 as the “Rusty Faulk Day” to mark the Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and “in honor of all men who are battling or have lost the battle to prostate cancer.” 

Born in Alabama, Rusty Faulk started as a truck driver and became musician when he moved to San Diego and started a family with Susie. The couple had three children and they are all advocating for the cause along with their mother.

Kara Faulk-Paschal is the oldest and is very involved with ZERO, the non-profit organization that helped the family while their father was battling the disease.

A simple inquiry for information about prostate cancer ended up with the daughter becoming a very active advocate.

“I didn’t know anything,” she said. “But now I am going to DC once a year to meet with Senate and House leaders and convince them not to lower the funding for the research, as they did in the past. Last year, I met with Senator Elizabeth Warren who also has ties to prostate cancer through her family and I am getting ready to go to DC again this year.”

Faulk-Paschal said she got her children involved too.

“Last year, one of my daughters had people on her birthday making donations for prostate cancer and wanted blankets that she can take to a cancer center for men who are fighting thisdisease.”

Faulk’s wife, Susie, found herself homeless less than a year after losing her spouse, but she said that did not stop her from continuing her advocacy work.

“I became homeless because after you lose your partner you go through a strong grieving period,” she said. “Sometimes the fog comes over and you can’t think clearly and your decisions are not very wise.”

Susie Faulk said the entire family is trying hard to come out of the fog and getting to a point of realizing he is “really-really not coming back.” “We have to make him proud and make a life for ourselves now, without him,” said Susie Faulk.

The Casino Inn Garden was full of musicians from all over San Diego County, joined by family and friends to honor Faulk and help fund a cure for prostate cancer. The Faulk women managed a stand with informational material about ZERO and items for auctions. One of the items is a signed gold-plated harmonica sent by Lee Oskar, a good friend and band member of Faulk’s. The King Cottonwood, along with Calamity Wayne and The City Sleekers, were among the local bands who played for free in the memory of their friend.

Wayne Markus said he remembered the beginning of his friendship with Faulk when Faulk won the Harmonica Musician of The Year in 1979.

“We were the main features at the Lakeside Hotel and the only harmonica players in the country bands back around San Diego in the 70s,” said Markus.

Faulk, Markus said, was a one of those guys with a really good heart.

“It’s a shame he’s gone,” he said. “We could use him right now, you know?”

Bodo Zacharek was born in Germany and moved to San Diego where he found a family with the band members he met five years ago. Zacharek plays guitar and said it was “a privilege to play with Rusty and be allowed in their world. I played things I never played before because of these guys and I can’t thank them enough. Rusty was fun and made things easy for me.”

Zacharek said he found Faulk to be “a good soul.”

“I think he would give you the shirt off his back,” he said.

Zacharek said he has lost many friends to cancer already and is pro-active about his medical checkups, but he found out “that until it affects you personally, you never take the time to think about it and that’s the problem.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in men after skin cancer. There is not a regular test for men similar to a mammogram for women, which makes it difficult to diagnose this type of cancer early on. Another challenge is posed by the symptoms that are similar with other non-threatening causes and do not prompt the doctors to order a test for prostate cancer by default.

Casino Inn in Alpine donated the food and the space to the fundraiser in Faulk’s memory and the money will go to ZERO.

For more information about this organization and prostate cancer, check the organization at https://zerocancer.org/learn/about-prostate-cancer/.

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