Remembering Albertina Wassenhove
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Her self-proclaimed mission was the keep the blues alive.
Now the queen of the blues—Albertina Wassenhove—has passed away at the age of 93.
Albertina didn’t sing the blues, and didn’t play the blues, yet all her world was basically a stage at Martha’s Midway Tavern and Dance Hall at 810 W. 4th Street in Mishawaka.
In a documentary on the business, Wassenhoven says “it’s a hard business to be in—to make any money.”
The family business actually dates back to 1924 when Albertina’s parents purchased the building. Albertina’s mother Martha worked there 67-years and served colorful characters like Knute Rockne and John Dillinger.
“She used to have bands and things in the back room where the music was and then after a while, she closed it off, and Albertina reopened it,” said Albertina’s friend Armida Stauffer.
The business sits in a residential neighborhood in Mishawaka. It is modest in size and popcorn was said to be about the only food served.
But at the Midway, it isn’t about the food, or the money, or the décor.
“She had a legitimate, authentic blues juke joint,” said musician Jeff Ferrell. “It was smoky, you know, it was old school. It was, it reeked, it reeked of blues.”
It was commonplace for visiting musicians to sign their names on the walls of the tavern.
“Some of the bands she brought in, Trout, they toured the world and they came to her little bar to put on a great show for us,” said Midway patron Rocco Dolce.
While Wassenhove had a desire to live to be 100 years-old, she passed away at age 93 and a half.
“You know, it was when the pandemic came across and the music stopped. I think that’s what kind of stopped her a bit,” added Armida Stauffer. “Quite a bit. She lived for the music. She loved the music.”
“She was just such a kind, loving woman, just loved people, loved the blues, loved the music, loved when the place would fill up. She just had such a good soul,” recalled local blues icon Harvey Stauffer (Ole Harv). “She’s really going to be missed from the scene.”
For more on the Martha’s Midway documentary:, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZakD6ewc8rc
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