Ilse Themen finally succumbs to breast cancer, R.I.P.

Ilse Themen in 2012 -GARY 17


She put up the most valiant of fights against a monster that seldom loses, as you’d expect from a singer whose claim to fame is Tamin’ Thunder, but in the end after a battle of nearly four years, Ilse Themen today succumbed to breast cancer.

The announcement was made on Facebook by Tamin’ Thunder band mate Randall Johnson Chung of RJ Entertainment, who lamented that “today is the saddest day of my life … my Sister in Song has passed away” after fighting “until your very last breath.”

Within five hours of posting of the announcement nearly 150 posts expressing grief, condolence and sweet memories of a true warrior queen with a soft heart  had appeared on Chung’s timeline.

While several posts acknowledged she had been ailing for some time, many expressed shock since they expected her to once again rebound from the disease she seemed to have beaten twice before.

Originally diagnosed in late 2014 with Stage 2 breast cancer, Themen was buoyed by treatments and the rallying of her Durham Region community to help support her at an all-star benefit on February 15, 2015, as we reported at the time.

She did return to the stage later that year, but by March 20 of 2016, when another benefit we wrote about was held in Oshawa, the disease had returned with a vengeance, prompting concerns that she might have to retire.

But once again the feisty, dynamic and versatile vocalist and songwriter fought back and resumed performing later that year, still authentically channelling R&B/Soul artists like Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin in front of her high-energy, show-oriented Rock/Dance band of veteran players.  The group continued to dominate stages in primo rooms across the GTA like The Edge Lounge in Ajax, Southside Johnny’s in Etobicoke and Jake’s Boathouse in Brampton.

She continued to be active right up until July 21, when the group performed at The Edge, but by early August friends were posting ominous-sounding well wishes on her timeline that suggested she was again struggling.

Few seemed to expect this relapse to be the final one, however.  But if there is a heaven, friends and loved ones can take consolation in the fact that Aretha and Whitney were waiting for her with open arms and saying “What took you so long girl?  We need a third for the next Soul number!”

Funeral and final arrangements information have not yet been set.

-Gary 17,
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When sufficient support has finally been received from the local music community to enable to finally create the dedicated Musical Legacies Online Museum site for which I have been gathering material, Ilse will, of course, be included along with many additional legacy materials such as photographs, recollections by others, articles, videos and more.  For more details email [email protected]  or [email protected]

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