Joe R. Hernandez, 63, long-time Des Moines vocalist and bass guitarist, gave his final performance on Earth before making his grand entrance into Heaven on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. He was surrounded by his children, grandchildren, fellow musicians, and his loving wife.

Joe was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in July 2010. After aggressive treatment and surgery, he was able to enjoy a year of peaceful remission. During his remission, Joe spent time visiting and reconnecting with family and friends from all over the Midwest. After a reoccurrence of his cancer in 2012, he worked closely with the world-class physicians and staff at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Chicago. His progress was optimistic until a staph infection abruptly changed the course of his life.

Born to Raul and Josephine (Pabon) Hernandez in Fort Madison, Iowa, on
April 5, 1949, it became apparent at an early age that Joe’s natural talent, love of music, and his amazing voice would lead to a long, distinguished career. His first performances were on the street corners of Fort Madison’s Mexican Village at the age of four, singing to all who passed by. Soon he was singing Mariachi ballads in Spanish on stage with his dad. Joe took piano lessons, but at age 13, fell in love with the bass guitar. With the right instruments in place -- his voice and his bass -- Joe began his life-long career as a musician, culminating in his induction into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

At age fifteen and already a bass guitar sensation, Joe was sought after by one of Iowa‘s most renowned bands, The Cavaliers. Shortly after joining the band, The Cavaliers recorded their first 45 RPM “Wait for Me I’m Coming,” which rose to an impressive #21 on the record charts, making them one of the most popular soul bands in the Midwest, regularly playing for standing-room-only crowds. On the flipside of the 45 record was “Time,” written and performed by Joe.

Joe’s musical career spanned an impressive 50+ years. He was a tremendously talented individual who insisted on precision and excellence in every performance. Joe performed with many musicians over the years. From the original Cavaliers, he performed with Gary Grimes, Dr. Steven Gleason, Dominic Guidichessi and Marvin Spencer, to all of the musicians who filled the big shoes of those who retired from the band, such as Tony Valdez, John Logan, Jim Parker, Carey Crowson, Joe Burriola, Janey Hooper, Del Jones, and countless others. Joe continued to perform with Tony Valdez and the Retro Rockets until his last day which included many of his former Cavalier band mates. In the 1990s, Joe joined his brother RJ to perform with Las Guitarras de Mexico, where his smooth voice and rich harmonies brought both traditional Mexican and new rock and soul music to life.

Joe was baptized at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Fort Madison, Iowa, and after a long absence from the church, regained his faith and made St. Ambrose Cathedral his church home. Joe was united in marriage to Karla Thacker on June 17, 2006, in a beautiful, music-rich ceremony at St. Ambrose Cathedral. Later, the newlyweds moved to St. Anthony Catholic Church which has been their parish home for the past five years.

Other than his first love, music, Joe enjoyed working at Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino dealing cards. True to his character, he developed his own “show” and many patrons gambled at his tables regularly to hear his catchy lines and silly sayings. On the weekend, his focus was spending as much time with Karla and preparing other couples for the sacrament of marriage and they also shared duties as Eucharistic Ministers.

Joe’s remarkable talents and warm personality are carried on through his children: Joe Hernandez, Jr. (Dixie), Gina Turner (Josh), Jesse Hernandez (Bobbi), and Jolee Donnelly (Steven); his grandchildren: Joe Hernandez, III, Gary Hernandez, Layla, Maurice, and Penelope Turner, and Leland Hernandez; as well as his great-grandchildren, Lily and Kaylee.

Joe also leaves his precious wife, Karla, and her children: Keishia Thacker, Asia Thacker, Roumel Thacker (Kacei), Kendra Sterling, and Diondra Sterling, and grandchildren, Corianna and Melvin Moore, Malaysia Chavez, and babies, Lyila Morris and Roman Thacker, whom he looked forward to playing with every day. Joe will be missed by his siblings: RJ Hernandez (Terry), Jacqueline Wells (Denny), Connie Limke (David), and Monica Riley (Steve); as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins, and countless friends, fans, and fellow musicians.

Friends will be welcomed to a visitation and wake from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, February 8, 2013, at Hamilton’s Funeral Home, 605 Lyon Street. The Rosary will begin at 7 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to bring their favorite memories to share during visitation.

A Musical Celebration of Life is planned for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, February 9, 2013, at St. Anthony Catholic Church, 15 Indianola Road, followed by a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Joe will be laid to rest following the services at Masonic Cemetery.

Following the internment, the family would like to extend a very special invitation to all Joe’s friends and fellow musicians, to bring your musical talents for a Farewell Jam Session to celebrate Joe’s life and music career, at the Windsor Heights Community Center, 6900 School Street, beginning at 2 p.m. Food and drinks will be provided for one last “Salud!” in honor of Joe -- THE Cavalier.

Condolences may be expressed at:

Service Details

Friday, February 8, 2013
5:00 - 8:00 pm
Hamilton's Funeral Home
605 Lyon Street
Des Moines
Rosary at 7:00 pm
Saturday, February 9, 2013
11:00 am
Musical Celebration of Life
begins at 10:30 am
St. Anthony Catholic Church
15 Indianola Road
Des Moines
Masonic Cemetery
Des Moines
Hamilton's Funeral Home
605 Lyon Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
(515) 243-5221

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