Anne and Dub DeBrie’s NE Portland home has a spacious-feel, with vaulted ceilings and richly-colored walls covered with photos and memorabilia from their decades spent as well-known local musicians. Their home wasn’t always as welcoming—when they bought the house in 2006 it was claustrophobic, so much so that Dub could stand flat on the ground and touch the ceiling. More so than aesthetics, the roof was their biggest source of concern. Its warped tiles and green moss led Anne to worry “you’d be able to put a foot through it. It didn’t look healthy.” When water started trickling down the light fixtures, they knew they needed help.
For Dub especially, living in a healthy home is critical to his well-being. In the early 1990’s he was diagnosed with HIV, which causes progressive failure of the immune system. As Dub’s health deteriorated, their friends—general contractors, architects, and carpenters by day but rollicking musicians by night—came out to help renovate their home. They drew up plans, tore down walls and laid new flooring, donating their time and energy into giving the DeBrie’s a comfortable home in which to live, claiming it was just a drop in the bucket of thanks for all that Dub had given them. For decades, Dub was the host of popular jam sessions around town and had given stage time to many musicians. “The players he played with, they were all kinds of levels. But as long as they did their best, he would let them play. He was a really great host, very generous,” Anne said.
Another wet winter with water leaks that threatened the new renovation work pushed Anne into action. Having volunteered with Habitat for Humanity before, she decided to look into our Home Repair and Preservation Program, which partners low-income homeowners in Portland’s Cully neighborhood with Habitat in order to complete home improvement projects critical to health and safety. After being accepted into our program the DeBries received a new roof over their heads this summer. They also received assistance from Cully Weatherization, an anti-displacement program of NAYA Family Center, EnHabit and the Portland Housing Bureau. Now Anne and Dub are filled with a sense of relief that they can remain in their Cully home for decades to come.
“I told people it felt like we won the lottery!” Anne exclaims while Dub adds, “We are very fortunate.”
It’s easy to see why the DeBries are revered; warm and friendly, they share anecdotes from their colorful lives, sometimes even finishing each other’s sentences. Both passionate about music, they first met in 1998 when Anne was visiting Portland and Dub invited her on stage at one of his gigs. “It was love at first sight. He was so polite, sweet and charming,” Anne says.
When talk turns to playing music, Dub lets out a deep, heartfelt sigh. He hasn’t been able to play gigs as much lately due to his health. When he does, however, Anne is right there by his side. “He will hobble into the club with his trekking pole and I’ll help him get on stage. Once you put a guitar in his hand, the disease is gone, the pain is gone. The power that comes out of this guy is just amazing.”
You can learn more about Habitat’s Home Repair and Preservation Program by visiting www.habitatportlandmetro.org/programs/home-repair-preservation/.
You can listen to Conroy-Debrie, Anne and Dub’s most recent band with their friend Tony Conroy, on their website: http://www.dubdebrie.com/.