Park renamed to commemorate Jeff Healey

The City of Toronto plans to rename a park in Etobicoke in honour of jazz and blues great Jeff Healey.

Blind musician grew up near Woodford Park

The City of Toronto plans to rename a park in Etobicoke in honour of jazz and blues great Jeff Healey.

Woodford Park, on Delroy Drive in the Queensway and Royal York Road area, is in the area where three generations of the Healey family — including Jeff — lived.

Healey grew up in Etobicoke and played in the park, both as a teenager and as a father with his own young children.

And Jeff's wife Cristie says the park was a key part of the Healey family.

"It's the park that not only Jeff grew up playing in but also his father grew up playing in, and now it's going to have the Healey name on it. It's a wonderful thing for the Healey family …" Cristie said. "I think it is really a fitting way to remember Jeff because he really was at heart a family person and Woodford Park and Bonnyview (Drive) were home to him always."

"The park really meant a lot to us. It really was a sense of family and home to us."

In fact, Jeff took Cristie to the area when they first started dating so he could show her where he grew up.

She said the couple would have moved to the area when they were looking for a house, but Jeff's extensive record collection — estimated to be some 27,000 items — forced them to seek a bigger house further away to accommodate the prized collection.

"He remembered rolling down the hill and tobogganing and playing on the swings," she said. "He knew where certain houses were. He loved to listen to the creek. Everything about that place was so important to him."

Janine Rechsteiner, president of the Friends of Woodford Park, said it is a fitting tribute to a man well known both in the area and across the country.

"It is about honouring someone who did significant contributions for the city," said Janine Rechsteiner, president of the Friends of Woodford Park.

"They (Healey's family) have been trying to figure out a way to commemorate him since he died and it has been a long road for them, so it is nice that they are finally seeing this."

Music icon

Healey, known for his blues-based rock and his distinctive playing style, died  in March 2008 after a battle with cancer. He was 41.

One of Healey's unique characteristics was his style of playing guitar — with his Fender Stratocaster placed on his lap, not standing up.

A talented musician from an early age, Healey played guitar, trombone, trumpet and keyboard with fluid ease, despite being blind from the age of one.

Beginning as a blues-rock musician, he was catapulted into the spotlight when Stevie Ray Vaughan heard him play in Toronto in 1985 and began inviting him to international gigs.

Healey was known best for the classic tune Angel Eyes with the Jeff Healey Band and his role as Cody in the 1989 film Road House, starring Patrick Swayze.

In 2001, he opened Healey's, a popular performing venue in Toronto.