Joseph L. Ganaway led a substance-abuse treatment agency and sang in local theater.

Obituary: Joseph Ganaway spent 'bonus days' helping others and making music

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2013 - 6:15 am

Joseph L. Ganaway, who led a Sacramento substance-abuse treatment agency and was a noted singer and theater performer, died July 8 of congestive heart failure, a friend said. He was 77.

A recovering alcoholic, Mr. Ganaway turned his life around and dedicated himself to helping other addicts find a path to sobriety. He joined the Sacramento Black Alcoholism Center as an intern in the 1970s and was named executive director in 1985.

He led SBAC for 15 years and helped secure a federal grant to expand the nonprofit program and reach out to young people in schools. He also served on a Sacramento County AIDS advisory committee and volunteered with the Black Sacramento Christian Club Organizers in setting up a computer lab for low-income teenagers.

"Joe was all about service and community," said Sandra Hill of SBAC, which has changed its name to Sobriety Brings A Change. "He was dedicated to his work and to helping people."

Mr. Ganaway, who played piano and organ, was also known in the theater community as a gifted singer with a powerful baritone voice.

He performed in productions by various groups, including Sacramento Theatre Company, Sacramento Light Opera Association and Best of Broadway. He sang opera, classical music, gospel and jazz in recitals and concerts and with choirs at Pioneer Congregational Church and St. Andrews AME Church in Sacramento.

"He was an amazing singer," friend Lorraine Canaday said. "He was sought after as a soloist in many choirs."

Joseph Leonard Ganaway was born on Oct. 15, 1935, and raised in New York, where he attended the High School of Performing Arts, Canaday said. He served in the Army and the Air Force and was a Vietnam veteran.

Stationed at McClellan Air Force Base, he settled in Sacramento after leaving the military and sought help for alcoholism.

He became a certified drug and alcohol abuse counselor and earned a bachelor's degree in counseling psychology in 1983 from the University Without Walls in Sacramento, now known as the Union Institute.

He lectured on counseling at the Breining Institute and California State University, Sacramento. In 1986, he was honored by the Sacramento Volunteer Center for his efforts to help low-income teenagers learn computer skills.

Mr. Ganaway retired from SBAC in 2001 because of poor health. He had kidney failure and was on dialysis for 13 years, Canaday said.

"He was always pleasant and never complained once," she said. "He never said, 'I feel bad today.' He always said, 'These are bonus days. God had given me bonus days.' "

Mr. Ganaway was divorced for many years and had no children. He is survived by three brothers, Alan Storms of Bridgeport, Conn., and Nicholas Storms and Jamie Storms, both of New York.

A memorial service was held July 16. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Sobriety Brings A Change, 4825 J St., Suite 120, Sacramento, CA 95819.

Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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